How Matt Kenseth helped John Krasinski land role of 'Jim' on 'The Office'
It's nearly impossible to think an actor besides John Krasinski playing the role of 'Jim Halpert' on the American version of "The Office," but it may not have happened without the help of Matt Kenseth . Did that just blow your mind? It should have. Back in 2002 -- a full three years before the NBC premiere of inarguably the greatest comedy series of all time, in my opinion, at least -- a fresh-faced Krasinski appeared in a commercial with Kenseth that caught the eye of future "Office" executive producer, Greg Daniels. The back-and-forth dialogue between last fall's grand marshal at Texas Motor Speedway and Kenseth (more back than forth, knowing the stoic Joe Gibbs Racing driver) and wild antics by the now-36-year-old led to an audition and before long, "Jim" was born. Krasinski recently spoke about it on NPR's Fresh Air podcast with Dave Davies . "I haven't seen or heard that since the time I did it. That is a real send back to memory lane," Krasinski said. " … That was a huge performance and I remember we had a little bit of script and Matt Kenseth had said he doesn't want to have a line in the script. He was very shy and he didn't want ... he just wanted to walk through the commercial. "At the end of the day, they just asked 'Would you just improv and have fun? Let's see what we get' and we just kept going and I think they just watched the dog go off the leash, just improving all this stuff. By the end, Matt said 'Well, now I do want to say some stuff.' So he came in and we were joking around all day. It was probably one of the more fun times I've had, certainly before I got 'The Office . ' " The commercial worked wonders for both men, as Krasinski is now a household name and Kenseth won five races that year, following it up with his only premier series title the following season. Watch the full commercial below.
NASCAR, Nickelodeon wave green flag for third season of 'Hammer Down'
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 24, 2016) -- NASCAR and Nickelodeon are joining forces again to take viewers inside the world of NASCAR racing with the return NASCAR Hammer Down . Premiering Friday, Sept. 23 at 9:30 p.m. (ET/PT) on Nicktoons, the third season of NASCAR Hammer Down features eight, 15-minute episodes hosted by Karsyn Elledge, granddaughter of Dale Earnhardt and daughter of Kelley Earnhardt Miller. This season, Elledge will be joined by her sister, Kennedy Elledge, for driver interviews, goofy antics and behind-the-scenes insight into the technology and people that propel more than 90 annual NASCAR national series events. Ryan Blaney , driver of the No. 21 Ford for Wood Brothers Racing , and Bubba Wallace Jr., driver of the No. 6 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing , also return as series regulars for the popular "Bubba & Blaney" segment. Produced by NASCAR Productions, season three premieres with back-to-back episodes, the first of which emanates from the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The subsequent "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 Special" gives viewers an inside look at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 taking place on Sunday, Sept. 18 at Chicagoland Speedway . NASCAR Hammer Down will air regularly on Fridays at 9:30 p.m. (ET/PT) during Nicktoons’ NickSports TV block. "Kids are a huge part of our sport, and we are excited to deliver a program like NASCAR Hammer Down to a very important audience for NASCAR," said Zane Stoddard, NASCAR vice president of entertainment marketing and content development. "The personalities of Karsyn, Kennedy and our drivers combined with the NickSports audience, creates the perfect avenue for us to connect with a new generation of potential NASCAR fans." The return of NASCAR Hammer Down is announced as the sport celebrates Kids Drive NASCAR, a week-long youth initiative leading up to Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway . Karsyn Elledge helped kick off the special campaign on Monday during a kids-only press conference at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, broadcast live by NASCAR via Facebook Live. All week the NASCAR industry is hosting events and activities designed to introduce young fans to the sport. As part of Kids Drive NASCAR, NASCAR is also launching the first-ever NASCAR Acceleration Nation mobile app, a digital experience created just for kids.
Despite loss of Byron, Toyota pipeline deep, talented
RELATED: Byron inks deal with Hendrick. scores JRM XFINITY ride for '17 BRISTOL, Tenn. -- The only thing more stunning than William Byron's signing with Hendrick Motorsports was the swiftness with how competitive the youngster became after taking a ride with Kyle Busch Motorsports for 2016. Byron, 18, had only one career start in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series prior to this season. Through this year's first 13 races, he leads the series in wins with five and sits atop the points standings. "He's taken that garage by storm," David Wilson, President and General Manager, Toyota Racing Development, USA, said Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway . "We thought he was talented; he won a K&N championship. But that's not the end-all. But what he's done the first half of the season has taken all of us kind of by surprise. I don't think we were anticipating the next step this soon; I don't think William was anticipating it this soon." That "next step" is a full-time ride with JR Motorsports, the XFINITY Series arm of Hendrick Motorsports co-owned by driver Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Kelley Earnhardt Miller and Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick. Hendrick officials announced the signing of Byron Thursday. JRM currently fields two full-time entries in the XFINITY Series with drivers Justin Allgaier and Elliott Sadler , as well as a third full-time entry driven by an assortment of competitors. KBM, owned by defending Sprint Cup Series champion Kyle Busch , fields full-time entries in the Camping World Truck Series for drivers Byron and Christopher Bell as well as a third that's featured Cody Coughlin , Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez behind the wheel. The organization is affiliated with Joe Gibbs Racing , for whom Busch and Suarez compete. There's no anger, only disappointment in the Byron move, Wilson said. "We feel so fortunate and grateful that we have such a deep bench … this sounds overly magnanimous but the sport still wins, right?" he said. "William is such a good kid, a nice young man. Hendrick and JRM are going to benefit from it and the sport is going to benefit from it. "I have to be gracious about it. One of the things that people don't perhaps realize and accept is that he’s been with Toyota for a few months. He's been in a Chevy, he’s been with JRM, his first full-bodied car was a JRM Late Model. "We knew that going into it." RELATED: Furniture Row expands to two cars for 2017 The Toyota driver pipeline is deep and talented. Furniture Row Racing officials recently announced the addition of a second Sprint Cup Series team that will feature Jones as its driver, joining current driver Martin Truex Jr . Bell and Suarez are also expected to continue to move up the ladder while others in lower series, such as K&N, are being groomed for possible advancement. "This isn't going to dissuade us," Wilson said. "We know that this won't be the last time we lose a driver from our 'stable.' But in the end the sport benefits and we will endeavor to try and do the best job we can with these young kids."
ThorSport draws strength to keep trucking after devastating fire
RELATED: Exclusive look at the ThorSport shop in Ohio SANDUSKY, Ohio -- No matter what happens from here on out, win or lose, championship or bust, ThorSport Racing officials likely will look back on the 2016 season as something of a rebirth. It's been a year in which the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series organization has literally risen from the ashes. Cut short just seven races into the season by a raging fire that damaged much of the team's race shop, the company marched on, spent weeks working piecemeal out of everything from the parking lot of a former grocery store to a section of bays inside a custom trailer manufacturing facility. Each off-site venue was within roughly a five-mile radius of the team's 100,000-square-foot home base. Each was also an example of a small, tight-knit community reaching out to help in any way possible. ThorSport, owned by Duke and Rhonda Thorson, has fielded entries in the Camping World Truck Series since 1996, the second year of the series' existence. Today, four teams run out of the large cream-colored building -- the No. 88 Toyota Tundra of two-time series champion Matt Crafton , the No. 13 of Cameron Hayley , the No. 41 of Ben Rhodes and the No. 98 of Rico Abreu. Rhodes and Abreu are Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidates. But for six weeks, the four teams and approximately 85 employees worked "old school," minus many of the technological necessities prevalent throughout all three of NASCAR's national series. They did so while traveling to and competing at Iowa and St. Louis, Kentucky and Eldora. Walk into the shop today and you might not realize the place had been filled with smoke "so thick you couldn't see your hand in front of your face," one first responder recalled on Thursday, or that water was "up to our knees in most places, and running out of the hauler bays in back like a river," said another. But the smell tells another story. "There were times," said Jim Johnson, captain of the Perkins Township Fire Department, "I thought we were going to lose the entire building." Johnson was the first to arrive on the scene, just after midnight on Monday, June 13. Assuming it was nothing more than a small brush fire out back of the team's headquarters, he said he quickly realized the severity of the situation and alerted departments from nearby townships as well as Sandusky. Three other localities and 47 firefighters quickly responded. The fire, which began outside behind the main building, had spread up the rear wall and then began moving beneath the rubber-sealed roof. The rear portion, which housed a fabrication area and machine shop, had to be knocked down in order for firemen to get to the blaze. Johnson said it took approximately 500,000 gallons of water to finally extinguish the fire. Most equipment was quickly removed from the shop -- a large grassy area outside was soon filled with race trucks, pit boxes and assorted tools. There were no injuries and, surprisingly, no race vehicles were damaged to the extent that they had to be discarded. While ThorSport teams regrouped and continued to focus on racing, workers began the process of renovating the shop. Walls, blackened by smoke and damaged by water, were torn down to the studs and rebuilt. New wiring was installed. Eventually, equipment was brought back in. And what little remained of the destroyed rear portion, about 25,000 square feet of shop space, was hauled away. The organization was slowed, perhaps, but not stopped. "We can't use (the fire) as an excuse to under-achieve," ThorSport General Manager David Pepper said. Today, trucks in various states of assembly sit on the pristine shop floor. Work has resumed in a building, a former slaughterhouse that was first put into use by the group in 2011. "Duke and Rhonda have given us our biggest, best resource you could possibly ask for to win races, and we've proven we can do that from here," Carl "Junior" Joiner, crew chief for Crafton, said. "Not having it, you were lost. "At this level, you need resources like this to win and we didn't have that for a long time." The smell, less strong now, still lingers inside the shop. Inside some of the trucks, too. "We still have to put air fresheners in some of them because of the stench," he said. It is not only a reminder of what happened, but how far the organization has come in such a short period of time. "When something bad happens, my father always told me, 'Well kid, it builds character.' And I know that we're going to be stronger from it," Joiner said. "I know we will." &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;gt;
'Humbled' Sadler puts team, sponsor limbo behind him
RELATED: OneMain extends pact with JRM, Sadler ELKHART LAKE, Wis. -- In the span of less than two months, NASCAR XFINITY Series points leader Elliott Sadler had a secure ride and sponsor, lost a secure ride and sponsor then gained a secure ride and sponsor, all with the same team … and sponsor. Dizzy? Don't blame you. OneMain Financial had sponsored the NASCAR veteran for several years, following him from team to team, but informed Sadler and JR Motorsports earlier this summer that after an executive shakeup following a merger with Springleaf Holdings that they would be exiting the sport at the conclusion of the 2016 season. The news was shocking, given their status as the longest-running XFINITY Series primary sponsor and Sadler being on pace for his most successful campaign since he started racing in the series full-time in 2011. It was equally as stunning when JRM General Manager Kelley Earnhardt Miller announced a multiyear extension with OneMain and Sadler on Wednesday, a complete 180 from where things were headed. "We were ecstatic when we found out that they had come back and had started talking to Kelley and Dale (Earnhardt Jr., JRM owner) to maybe further this relationship," Sadler told NASCAR.com Friday at Road America , site of Saturday's Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN/NBC Sports App). " … This all came together really quick and really late, like just here in the past couple days. It's neat how it's all come together pretty fast. " … I was proud when I found out that they were deciding to come back and they really wanted me to be their spokesperson and their head guy for racing. Man, I'm humbled by that. OneMain's a great sponsor. I've been with them over a decade. All that put together, I'm humbled that they still want me to be a part of their brand and still be a part of their company. I think definitely it's a no-brainer to be a part of JR Motorsports in this particular division." While Wednesday's announcement was a welcome sight for the industry -- nobody likes to see a sponsor leave the sport, let alone one with such a long-standing, visible relationship with a single driver -- it was certainly an unprecedented head-scratcher. What, exactly, had happened in the past month-plus to have OneMain change their minds? "One thing I've learned, and the most important thing I've learned, is in a merger, there's a lot going on, man," Sadler said. "There's only so many hours in a day and there's only so many things that you can look at; charts and stats and information. I think once they got all the merger stuff straight and they could really take a good, deep look into the racing program, into NASCAR, into the demographics between their customers and NASCAR, I think they really started to kind of see that 'Hey, this is maybe … this looks pretty good.' "NASCAR is a pretty wide sport. I think they learned they had customers in California that were race fans, they had customers in Michigan and Pennsylvania and Texas and Florida and everywhere in between and it's going to be, 'Wow, maybe this is a direct correlation between the two. We might need to look at this.' " Being the points leader, a favorite in the first-ever XFINITY Series Chase and an employee of NASCAR's most popular driver definitely wasn't a hindrance, either. RELATED: Series Chase Grid "I think it doesn't hurt the way we're running. I think that's a big part of it. It 100 percent doesn't hurt to be associated with JR Motorsports and Junior Nation. Kelley and Dale and (JRM Brand Director & Communications) Mike Davis and their staff; what they do in digital consumption and stuff off the track … there's no other team even close in the garage. I think once you throw all that together and seeing the response and the people you're reaching is why the reconsideration was done and why they decided to stay here for a couple more years." Had this all not come together, however, Sadler indicated that in terms of a backup plan, he "never really messed with (looking at) other options." In fact, retirement was starting to creep into the 41-year-old's thoughts, ever so slightly. "I just kind of was looking at … 'This might be it.' I didn't know, but I didn't want to take away from what we were doing here. It's the best chance I've had in a long time to make a great run to Homestead. We're leading in the points and we're running good and we've got a good string of finishes going and we've been fast every week. I didn't want to … you can only control what you can control. I've been a part of the sport long enough that I didn't want to go off and start fishing and doing other things and taking away from what my job is, and that's showing up prepared every week. I'm not going to tell you that it hasn't been hard. The last month and a half, I haven't slept much, I'll be honest with you. It's been tough and priorities have been shifted some and wondering what's going to happen.” Sleep should come a bit easier now for the veteran, at least until the Chase starts at Kentucky later this year. Gratitude does, as well. " … For all of that to come together and be able to be the lucky one to stand here and talk to you about it … " said Sadler, " … it's pretty humbling and I'm pretty thankful to have that opportunity."
Tifft has renewed driving passion -- and sense of smell -- after brain surgery
BRISTOL, Tenn. – Matt Tifft remembers waking up in the middle of the night in the Intensive Care Unit following his brain surgery. The television was on and the XFINITY Series race at Daytona was playing. Tifft went right back to sleep that night — but getting back to the track hasn't been far from his mind since then. "It's great to see everyone," Tifft said Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway . "I can't tell you how much I've missed being at the race track … I don't know that I've ever stayed away from a race track that long." The 20-year-old developmental XFINITY driver for Joe Gibbs Racing underwent surgery July 1 to remove a low-grade, benign brain tumor, and has been sidelined from the race track since. Poised and in good spirits, Tifft thoroughly explained the difficult recovery he's endured for the past month and a half. "I got this nice scar over here," Tifft said, gesturing to a long scar on his head. "They got as much ( of the tumor) as they could out. The way they best describe it is a wet cotton ball in a cup of water, basically. So, they can pull out as much as they can but there's always going to be a couple strands left in. … But they were able to go in and do a fairly aggressive surgery and get the most out as possible. "But one of the most shocking things to me was apparently with a brain tumor, one of the symptoms is a loss of smell. So, I came downstairs the Monday after I had my surgery and my mom, she was washing something with Murphy's Oil (Soap). I guess I couldn't smell things for years and it just hit me and it made me nauseous and all of a sudden I just started smelling everything. I was like, 'My goodness, I can't believe this.' " Scent wasn't the only sense regained following Tifft's recovery. He quickly realized how much the tumor had affected details of every day life on many levels. "The first couple weeks getting back, I could do 30 minutes more of activity without getting too worn out," Tifft recalled. "What I would figure out, though, is every day I had new experiences -- going to the mall, walking around, things that you think are just so normal to everybody – all of a sudden, those things were stressful situations. … It was just fascinating getting to learn about that. And every day I got stronger and better and to the point where I was able to start driving a street car again, get back to normal life, basically. After that, I was able to get back to a normal physical activity level." While the process has been wearisome at times, it also has afforded Tifft the opportunity to connect with others who either have gone through brain surgery, themselves, or have children who have undergone a similar process. "It really puts things in perspective," Tifft said. "I think sometimes we get lost in this world of NASCAR, sometimes we get trapped in a bubble a little bit with that, and you get hit with something like this and it's shocking but then you realize with other people, there's a whole lot more that could be going wrong. It just makes you appreciate things a lot more." With a new outlook — and regained sense of smell -- Tifft finally climbs behind the wheel Sunday with doctor's approval for the first time since his procedure, as he tests a late model at Hickory Speedway. "I think I will be smiling from ear to ear," Tifft said. "I can't tell you how excited I am to strap back in the seat. It will be a really great feeling." But perhaps a better feeling will be eventually getting back into a stock car, the thought that has kept Tifft going since July. "You get that realization that this is not going to be tomorrow that I'm going to be OK, this is going to take some time and in the beginning that took a while to really understand that," Tifft said. "There were definitely some times where you’re bummed out and you just want things to go back to normal. Then you just have to keep telling yourself that you have to do everything necessary to get back to that point. "My goal from the get-go is to get back in the race car. … The reason I was able to stay so positive and so driven was the one goal of getting back in the car."
Kenseth scheme paints picture of historic Darlington moment
VOTE: Favorite Darlington scheme " MORE: Relive the 'Tide Ride' making history BUY TICKETS: Darlington The final piece of the Joe Gibbs Racing Darlington throwback paint schemes puzzle fell into place Tuesday afternoon at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The #TideRide Returns for @TooToughToTame ! @JoeGibbsRacing @mattkenseth @AllWaltrip @RickyCravenESPN pic.twitter.com/UxBhCAzcFn — NASCAR Hall of Fame (@NASCARHall) August 16, 2016 Matt Kenseth pulled back the cover of his No. 20 Toyota Camry to reveal a Tide-influenced scheme that he'll run on Sept. 4 in the Bojangles' Southern 500 (6 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Tide has a rich history in NASCAR, including being on Darrell Waltrip's car for his 1989 Daytona 500 win, as well as a famous moment at Darlington -- in 2003, Ricky Craven, in his orange Tide car, beat Kurt Busch to the stripe by .002 seconds in a classic slam-bang finish. Ricky Rudd also ran the paint scheme for several seasons. In doing so, Kenseth will join Kyle Busch (No. 18, honoring Dale Jarrett), Denny Hamlin (No. 11, honoring Darrell Waltrip) and Carl Edwards (No. 19, honoring Tony Stewart ) in the JGR fleet of drivers. More than two dozen throwback paint schemes for this year's race have been announced. The throwback program launched last year and is expected to continue for the next several seasons. This year's theme honors the era of 1975-84. MORE: Legends banter about the scheme &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;gt;
Weather delays re-start of Bristol Sprint Cup race
RELATED: Live radar updates " Channel finder for CNBC BRISTOL, Tenn. -- The start of Sunday's rain-delayed Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race, postponed from Saturday night, went green at approximately 4:45 p.m. ET, nearly four hours after the scheduled 1 p.m. ET start. Teams completed 48 laps before rain halted Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event, forcing officials to reschedule the continuation of the race for Sunday. Morning rain in northeast Tennessee kept NASCAR and track officials busy trying to dry the track between frequent cloud bursts. The race can be seen on CNBC while radio networks PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR are also providing coverage. Kyle Busch ( Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota) restart today's race out front, with Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders Chase Elliott ( Hendrick Motorsports ) and Ryan Blaney ( Wood Brothers Racing ) in second and third. JGR teammates Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth complete the top five. Records indicate this is the first time the annual night race at BMS has been run the following day since the track moved the event under the lights in 1978. NASCAR Hall of Fame member Cale Yarborough won that event, then known as the Volunteer 500. It is the third time this season a race has been delayed one day due to rain, with the other two both coming at Pocono Raceway . &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;gt;
A personal mission becomes a cause for Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award Finalist
In 2011, Andy Hoffman's young son Jack was diagnosed with a brain tumor. And so, in America's Heartland, the battle began for the life of one child. Soon, the situation led Hoffman's family to take on another battle of national scope, for the lives of many children. One year after the devastating diagnosis, Hoffman had T-shirts made to sell as a fundraiser for children's brain cancer research. Approximately 20,000 shirts were sold, more than $ 300 ,000 was raised. Inspiration morphed into dedication and a year later Hoffman and his wife, Brianna, formed "Team Jack Foundation" based in Atkinson, Nebraska. In the process, they confronted the fact that procedures to treat pediatric brain cancer – both in surgery and chemotherapy – were more than 30 years old. A further catalyst was the obvious need for funding, for further childhood cancer research. Team Jack Foundation raises money to fund impactful pediatric brain cancer research while working to create national awareness for the disease. The long-term goal of the non-profit organization is to fund research at the top research centers in the United States and internationally with a special emphasis on the state of Nebraska and the surrounding region, where research centers are limited. "Our goal is to raise as much money as we can, as fast as we can and get that money into the hands of the best researchers in the world to help find a cure for pediatric brain cancer," Hoffman said. It's happening. In 2013, Hoffman appealed to the Nebraska State Legislature for funding at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, resulting in the state matching Team Jack Foundation's commitment of $1.5 million. The foundation has raised nearly $3 million, with the funding going to five research programs across the country. In addition, Hoffman has run three marathons through which he personally raised more than $10,000. Hoffman, 37 – and a longtime Jeff Gordon fan – is one of four finalists for The NASCAR Foundation's 2016 Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award Presented by Nationwide. The award will be presented by France, The NASCAR Foundation's Chairwoman Emeritus and founder, on Sept. 27 during the inaugural Honors Gala at the Marriott Marquis in New York City. The foundation will donate $100,000 to the charity represented by the award winner and $25,000 to each of the other three finalists' charities. The award winner will be determined via an online vote now underway and running through Sept. 26 at 5 p.m. ET at NASCAR.com/Award Andy Hoffman and his son, Jack, at a chemotherapy session. Each year, approximately 4, 300 children are diagnosed with life-threatening brain cancer. Young Jack Hoffman's battle continues, but for many other children, the battle is lost. "As a parent, when your child receives that first cancer diagnosis, it's a process," Hoffman said. "It's devastating. It's paralyzing. Then you go from being paralyzed to almost having a pity party, and you're praying, asking God, 'Why?' But then, the next step is, 'How are we going to beat this thing?' "I can't ask for a better group to advocate for, than these kids going through something like this. … There's so much more work that needs to be done. We've only scratched the surface. "For whatever reason, God chose us [to face this challenge] so we felt like it was our job, our obligation to other families … to use all of the blessings in our life, to do the most amount of good as possible." To learn more about this year's finalists for The NASCAR Foundation's Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award presented by Nationwide, and to cast your vote today, go to www.NASCAR.com/Award . Voting is open now until Sept. 26 at 5 p.m. ET.
The children of MRO sing the National Anthem
It is a yearly tradition for the children of Motor Racing Outreach to sing the U.S. National Anthem at Bristol Motor Speedway.