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Post-Race Reactions: Heluva Good ! Sour Cream Dips 400
The top 5 drivers along with an upset Dale Earnhardt Jr. give post-race comments.
At NASCAR Summit, a season starts anew
CONCORD, N.C. -- NASCAR has its own version of spring training in January, but instead of the drivers or teams, it's the folks working behind the scenes who are getting in preseason reps. The annual NASCAR Summit Presented by American Medical Response (AMR) concluded its three-day run Tuesday at the Embassy Suites Hotel & Conference Center, where hundreds of dedicated track services, medical, safety, and security workers prepared for the season ahead. Now in its 16th year, the NASCAR Summit has provided open forums and sessions for those workers to learn about best practices and innovations to help make the sport go from weekend to weekend. "This meeting is really one of the best meetings of the year and it really sets our tone for the season in terms of safety," said John Bobo, NASCAR Managing Director of Racing Operations. "We have operations here, security, we have our medical personnel and we really get to look at what we did in the past season and then we get to look at the season ahead and do everything we need to do to prepare for it, but it's the special people who run toward the blue light and run toward the siren and toward the fire. These are those people and it's great to be with them and to figure out everything we need to do to make sure every event is safe and all our competitors are safe." NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton echoed those sentiments before Tuesday's awards ceremony, where unsung heroes in the medical, security and track services fields were recognized for their outstanding contributions. "One of the most particular reasons that I enjoy saying hello to you and a thanks to you is because in order for NASCAR to do what it does, it has to have a heart and soul of people who are of the character that run toward a situation instead of away from it," Helton said, "and there's nobody in our organization that is as significant as the group that is in here today for this summit that represents that character of our sport." Attendees of the annual conference gathered information and learned techniques from five general sessions Monday and then chose from 11 breakout sessions Tuesday in their various fields. Subjects ranging from proper jet dryer operation, injury trends among NASCAR pit crews, track painting and preparation and an update on the NASCAR Green Initiative were among the offerings. Summit participants also sampled wares from 26 exhibitors and vendors. Among the presenters was new premier series entitlement sponsor, Monster Energy, handing out stickers and free samples as its relationship with stock-car racing grows. "I think we're as interested in Monster as the general fan is interested in Monster and what changes that'll bring and how things are presented, what life is like at -track," Bobo said. "We certainly do appreciate Monster being here at the Summit and all they've done to support us. They've certainly kept us (going) through some of the sessions late in the afternoon, so it's been great." During the Summit's awards ceremony, the NASCAR Foundation announced that $4,845 had been raised from Sunday's Trivia Night, a charity raffle and other donations over the three-day convention. The honorees for exceptional service from the 2016 season were: Track Services • Mission Award: Daytona International Speedway • Teamwork Award: Kentucky Speedway • Innovation Award: Pocono Raceway • Excellence in Track Services Award: Jay Donnay, Homestead-Miami Speedway Medical • Above and Beyond Award: Dr. Angela Fiege, Dr. John Maino, Dr. Brian Nao • Nursing Director Award: Jackie Coats, Watkins Glen International • Teamwork Award: Darlington Raceway , Bristol Motor Speedway Security • Security Director's Award: George Brazzale, Las Vegas Motor Speedway ; Jim Hosfelt, Dover International Speedway Contributing: NASCAR Wire Service
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.
Determination, focus drive Martin to Hall of Fame
RELATED: Learn more about the Class of 2017 " Martin's top moments Mark Martin is respected and revered for a 31-year NASCAR racing career that includes 40 Cup victories, 49 XFINITY wins and five heralded IROC championships. He is considered one of the most talented, highly focused and broadly successful competitors in NASCAR history. And later this week, Martin will formally acquire a designation that makes him most proud of all: NASCAR Hall of Famer. "When I'm introduced at a function, now people can call me something, I'll have a title," Martin, 58, said this week with a laugh. "Prior to that, you kind of had to search for a title, although I had done a lot of cool and amazing things in my career." His long list of "cool and amazing things" is what earned Martin this highest of honors. He joins Benny Parsons, Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick and Raymond Parks in this year’s Hall of Fame class and will be formally inducted Friday in Charlotte (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN). RELATED: Parks set early standard " Prolonged excellence Childress' hallmark For Martin, it is a story of supreme determination and talent. In addition to his 40 wins and five championship runner-up finishes in NASCAR's highest level, Martin proved to be one of the series’ most diverse competitors -- ever. He won four GT class championships competing in the Rolex 24 during the 1990s. And his five IROC titles -- and four more runner-up IROC championship finishes -- showed Martin’s great ability bettering the best drivers across all forms of racing from NASCAR to IndyCar to sports cars to sprint cars. It is certainly something that separates and elevates him to the highest of standards through four decades of the best competition in multiple genres. So understandably, Martin had to really think about what in his vast career makes him most proud. "I don't know if there's a single thing," Martin said. "One thing, I would have to say the fact that I made it to NASCAR at such a young age (22). At the time it was an amazingly young age, then I fell on my face and had to go home and start my career again. "So I would say perseverance, if you want to sum it up in one word. Having to start my career all over again and building my way back. Having a second chance is probably the biggest thing." "And the second thing is what I did in the IROC Series." Martin has acknowledged that he was as focused and intense as they came. He was the first driver to seriously incorporate fitness training into his race preparation -- something that may have eased his ability to compete at such a high level even into his 50s. That determination to find an edge was apparent in the garage, even from an early age. He was among the rare drivers to frequently be seen looking into the hood of his car and working alongside the crew. It was the way he was raised by his father Julian, who took great care in guiding his son's passion. There are photos of Martin’s earliest racing days clearly showing how Julian Martin had gone so far to alter his son's first race cars out of love and safety -- mounting the steering wheel in the middle of the car instead of having it on the far left. Dad and son travelled from their native Arkansas throughout the Midwest following the racing dream and they were very close -- now the hard work rewarded with Martin’s long list of achievements and this highest of NASCAR's high honors. Heartbreakingly, Julian was killed when the plane he was piloting crashed in the Nevada mountains in August of 1998, also taking the life of Martin’s stepmother and 11-year old stepsister. Martin remembers immersing himself in competition as best he could to deal with the tragedy. Martin won the night race at Bristol two weeks after losing his father. Immediately after climbing out of his car in Victory Lane, he emotionally thanked the race fans for "their sympathy, love and support" saying their "love for our family has meant everything." "I felt it was my obligation and responsibility to go racing and that's what my dad would have wanted," Martin acknowledged last week. "It was tough, but it would have been tough sitting on a couch in a daze, too. "To me, racing was sort of a responsibility that I had. I felt responsibility toward the 50 or 100 people that supported the (then-Roush Racing) 6-car and a responsibility to race. I just didn't feel like missing a race because I was grieving. … To me, at the time, it just didn't seem like the right thing to do. "It did help me cope with the horrendous loss I was experiencing because I did have to pick up and go racing." And for Martin, the success he would later experience in the second half of his career is as impressive and inspiring as anything he accomplished. He came as close as he ever had to winning the Daytona 500 in 2007, losing the race to Kevin Harvick by a mere 0.02-seconds -- a hood-length -- in a photo finish that marked Martin’s best ever showing in the Great American Race. RELATED: Closest finishes in the history of the Great American Race Two years later, at the age of 50, Martin challenged Jimmie Johnson for what is now known as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship, winning five races and claiming seven pole positions. Martin led the standings after each of the opening three Chase races, only to finish runner-up to Johnson, a seven-time winner on the year. It marked the fifth and final time Martin was a championship runner-up in an amazing 20-year span of his career. It is a remarkable accomplishment and something he says he is at last comfortable enjoying, free of any near-miss regret. "I never scored enough points to win one, and that's that," Martin said, when asked about it last week. "I would have won one if I had scored more points than anyone else. … and I let that take an enormous amount of joy (from me). "It's something I let go of and I refuse to allow that to rob me of joy. I have a lot to be thankful of, be grateful for. I accomplished a lot in my career and I’m not sour about the things I didn't accomplish." The attitude accompanies good reason -- because by all standards Martin accomplished so much and is admired by so many. Later this week, he will be fittingly celebrated in all the glory he deserves for a career that showed everyone what hard work and mental focus could produce. Forever more, Mark Martin shall be known and introduced as a NASCAR Hall of Famer. "It means more than anything I achieved while I was racing because I was so busy racing, anything I achieved I never paid attention to," Martin said. "I was just storming ahead worried about how I would win the next race. "Now that I've had some time to soak it in, it's the last big deal, the big win, the crown jewel of my career. "Don't forget the people in the Hall of Fame are my heroes, the founders of the sport, the real men that did it with their bare hands. I'm a little bit uncomfortable going in there with them, to be honest with you, because I don't feel like I belong in that kind of company." Perhaps once he stands on stage -- properly celebrated and duly honored -- Martin will accept that he is absolutely a part of that good company. The best. &amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;gt;
Sights and Sounds: Heluva Good ! at the Glen
Watch Marcos Ambrose capture his first Cup Series victory and the rest of the sights and sounds from Watkins Glen .
Toyota pipeline flows freely with youth, talent
RELATED: First look at new Toyota race car The expeditious elevation of Daniel Suarez into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series last week reinforced the importance of a feeder system for teams hoping to groom young, talented drivers for future endeavors at the top level. "Look around. What would we have done?" Joe Gibbs, founder and owner of Joe Gibbs Racing , said Jan. 10 following two whirlwind announcements at the organization's headquarters in Huntersville, North Carolina. Suarez, the 2016 NASCAR XFINITY Series champion and the first Mexican-born driver to win a national series title in NASCAR, was scheduled to return to the XFINITY Series this year to defend his title. But the surprising departure of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Carl Edwards created an unexpected opening within the JGR camp and the organization's No. 19 entry. RELATED: Edwards steps away, Suarez to replace " Full timeline Fortunately for JGR, the 24-year-old Suarez was waiting in the wings. Instead of competing full-time in the XFINITY Series, Suarez will now take over the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series entry vacated by Edwards for 2017. He will also compete in a select number of NXS races. "I think the hard work, working on developing young guys is a big part of this," Gibbs said of organization's XFINITY Series effort. "Thank goodness (Suarez) was there and we had done that." Suarez is one of several drivers in a Toyota pipeline that has become filled with young talent. The automaker, which made its NASCAR debut in 2004 in the Camping World Truck Series, continually seeks to identify gifted drivers from a variety of racing's lower levels, then assist them and their teams as they move through the ranks. Erik Jones will compete full-time in 2017 for Furniture Row Racing as a teammate to Martin Truex Jr . in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series after racing for JGR's XFINITY Series program a year ago. RELATED: FRR adds Jones to its growing team Christopher Bell will once again drive for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Camping World Truck Series after finishing third in points last year. Although he was sidelined for part of the '16 season following surgery for a brain tumor, Matt Tifft , 20, made 10 XFINITY Series starts for JGR last year as well as 10 NCWTS starts for Red Horse Racing. Ben Rhodes (19) and Cameron Hayley (20) competed last season for ThorSport Racing in the Camping World Truck Series. "Our farm system is going to continue to be something that we invest in," David Wilson, President & General Manager, Toyota Racing Development, USA, told NASCAR.com. "It's validation and it just furthers our resolve that in spite of the inherent risk … the return on that investment is still going to be good and it's going to validate our commitment." Wilson was scheduled to attend this past weekend's Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals. The prestigious event, which concluded Saturday night, was won by Bell. MORE: Bell triumphs at Chili Bowl "I want to show them how important it is for them to be representing our brand," Wilson said. With more than two dozen of the 300-plus participants at the Chili Bowl affiliated with Toyota, Wilson said there is "no doubt" that someone from the group "is going to be in an announcement like this that happened ( at JGR) five years from now." Having an abundance of talent is a good problem, but it is still a problem, in part because of the limited number of seats/rides available in the various series, according to Ed Laukes, Vice President of Integrated Marketing Operations for Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), USA. "We are always concerned about being overloaded with the young guys as they're coming through the ranks," he said, "because we don't want to have that talent get developed around TRD (Toyota Racing Development) and our guys, and then they end up with another company, with another manufacturer, with another race team." Toyota officials are eager to help identify and work with drivers and teams as they grow, according to Laukes. But ultimately, it's up to owners to continue to invest in their own programs or, as Furniture Row Racing did last year, make the switch to Toyota to further enhance their efforts. Furniture Row made the switch from Chevrolet to Toyota for 2016. The Denver, Colorado-based organization has since added the second team, opening up an opportunity for Jones to move up to the premier series. "That's always going to be the secret sauce in the whole thing," Laukes said. "Because we can't do it as a manufacturer. We're not a team owner, we never have been and we have no plan of being a team owner. … "But it always is a concern. We do a lot of stuff in Late Model, a lot of stuff in Midgets. We’ve been around a lot of those series for a long time." JGR develops and draws talent from more than just the organization's XFINITY Series program. Kyle Busch Motorsports plays a key role in the process as well. Gibbs said Busch, the 2015 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion and driver of the team's No. 18 Toyota, "has been very good at analyzing and discovering young talent. "He still races in Late Models and all that kind of stuff," Gibbs said. "I talk to him a lot and say, 'Hey, who do you see?' Or ask him an opinion. I've asked him for his opinion on Daniel, on Erik. And he’s normally pretty much spot-on. He's really good , I think, at evaluating drivers." While Busch has been criticized by some for competing in, and often dominating, races in other series, running those events has allowed him to evaluate his KBM equipment as well as the younger drivers. "For us, when we put somebody in his trucks, we pretty much know they're going to be in the best stuff," Gibbs said. "Now, it's up to them. And if they can't get it done with Kyle, then odds are there's something wrong. … "Hopefully that's the way it is with our XFINITY program. We know (we have) the best crew chiefs, best motor, best car. If they can't get to the front with that, then odds are … that's what you're evaluating. We're all looking for that special driver." &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;
Edwards hints at future political aspirations
Carl Edwards talks about his passion for the country and his openness to helping in the causes of liberty and freedom.
Parks set the standard during NASCAR's early era
RELATED: Learn more about the Class of 2017 MORE: Photos from Voting Day DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- As one of early stock car racing's most successful car owners, it is appropriate that Raymond Parks captured the first two championships offered by the fledgling National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, an organization Parks helped form in 1947. Parks and his driver, Red Byron, won NASCAR's modified title in 1948. The pair, along with mechanic Red Vogt, became the sanctioning body's 1949 Strictly Stock champions -- the initial season of what is now the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The Dawson County, Georgia, native and his racing team were gone from NASCAR after 1955, winning just twice. But Parks, who died in 2010 at the age of 96, was seen as one of the sport's seminal figures and a visionary. "He set the standard. Mr. Parks brought the sport class," said NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty in a speedwaymedia.com interview shortly after Parks' death. "It took people like Mr. Parks to lay the foundation we're living off of. "And without him, we wouldn't have the history we have and we wouldn't be where we are today." Parks' contributions will be celebrated Jan. 20 in Charlotte, North Carolina, when he will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN). His fellow inductees among the Hall's Class of 2017 are Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick, Mark Martin and Benny Parsons. Parks was born in the north Georgia mountains in 1914, the eldest of his father's 16 children. By age 14, Parks had run away from home, landing in Atlanta where he worked at a still and later went into business for himself, bringing liquor from Dawsonville to Atlanta restaurants. He later branched out into legitimate enterprises supplying businesses with vending machines and jukeboxes. "He always kept his dignity and his kindness, always behaved more like one of Atlanta's most sophisticated businessmen, always was dapper in his finest hats and tailored suits," wrote Ed Hinton for ESPN.com in June 2010, shortly after Parks' passing. In the 1930s, Parks added stock car racing to his resume, fielding some of the region's fastest cars with a driver's roster that included Byron, Lloyd Seay, Roy Hall, Bob and Fonty Flock and NASCAR Hall of Famer Curtis Turner. He was instantly visible at the track, always dressed in wool suit, tie and fedora hat. A famous photograph shows Park changing tires on one of his cars during the inaugural Southern 500 at Darlington, South Carolina, still wearing his white shirt and tie. Parks served with the U.S. Army's 99th Infantry Division during World War II, fighting in the 1944-45 Battle of the Bulge in Belgium. Returning home, Parks resumed racing, frequently fielding two and three cars. His team won all five Daytona Beach beach-road course races in 1945 and 1946. "He came back with a vengeance, more determined to do and accomplish things he felt like he already should have done," said Ray Fox, a master mechanic, engine builder and NASCAR official. Parks was among some three dozen racing figures who gathered in December 1947 at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach to create NASCAR, under direction of fellow driver and race promoter William "Big Bill" France. Like France, Parks believed that a rough and tumble, frequently disorganized activity could become a nationally recognized sport like baseball or football. Parks financially supported the organization during its early years and boosted NASCAR's image apart from jalopy racing. "He kept his cars clean and neat like they do today," said NASCAR Hall of Famer Glen Wood in 2010. " The rest of us just kind of beat them out if they got banged up. He would have still been around today if he had kept on until the factories got into it. "He opened a lot of doors and windows to how to do things and taught a lot of racers how to do it better." Fellow NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Junior Johnson concurred. "Anywhere he showed up, he had the best cars," said Johnson in the ESPN.com obituary. "He's been an asset (to the sport) all his life to it." Parks left NASCAR to become a successful developer and owner of service stations and convenience stores. Parks was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2009. He also was part of the inaugural class inducted into the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame. &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;
JR Motorsports ramps up with 2017 expansion
RELATED: Driver Tracker " On the move: Changes in store for 2017 The encore for an organization that placed both of its full-time drivers into the Championship 4 field in the inaugural NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase last year has the chance to be even greater. JR Motorsports has that unique possibility, an opportunity granted by not sitting still. Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier return to the fold after prosperous debut years with the team, but that's where the offseason status quo ends. JRM plans a full-court press for the upcoming XFINITY season, expanding from two to four full-time drivers in an all-out push to bring home the championship it barely missed out on in 2017. "To have that opportunity to go up against three teammates, to see the growth in our shop, to see the growth in our teams, it's really, really fun to watch," Allgaier said. "I feel like if you came back here next year and said we'd have four cars from JR Motorsports in the final four, it wouldn't surprise me at all." A four-car sweep for the Homestead-Miami finale in November would mean stellar introductions by the two newest faces in the JRM stable: up-and-coming teenager William Byron, a NASCAR Next alum, and 30-year-old vet Michael Annett , back in XFINITY after a three-year stint in NASCAR's top division. The addition of Byron, a 19-year-old prospect in the Hendrick Motorsports system, actually counts as a reunion. The Liberty University student was a former driver for JRM's Late Model program on the weekly and touring level. His teammates have already seen what he can do in top-level equipment. Byron won seven times in his rookie NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season, with only a crucial engine failure in 2016's penultimate race keeping him from the championship fight. It's the reason Sadler has touted him as "a star of the future" and why Allgaier echoed the thought, calling Byron "an absolute class act and an amazing talent." Kelley Earnhardt Miller -- who co-owns JRM with her brother, Dale Earnhardt Jr . -- spoke with tones of regret in describing how Byron got away in late 2015, snapped up by Kyle Busch Motorsports and seemingly earmarked for an upward career arc in the Toyota pipeline. That changed last August when team owner Rick Hendrick brought him back into the Chevrolet camp, cognizant of the creeping advancement in age of his Monster Energy Cup Series roster. "For that to all come back full circle, we're real excited about it," Earnhardt Miller told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio last month. "He's just a great kid and a good family, and his story is just so cool -- doing the computer racing [on iRacing] and then telling his dad he wants to race and then not racing until he was 15. It's just a good story. But Mr. Hendrick deserves the credit there, trying to look at his next moves because he's going to have some drivers that are on the retirement horizon in the next several years, so smart move for him to make all that happen." Said Byron: "I just remember their ultimate goal for me when I started racing Late Models was so I could race an XFINITY car there. In a weird way, I got back to that and it's going to be really cool to return next year." To accommodate the escalated XFINITY Series growth, which Earnhardt Miller said has maxed out the team's resources, JR Motorsports has closed its truck series operation. Cole Custer , who drove the JRM No. 00 truck the last two seasons, has since moved on to Stewart-Haas Racing 's XFINITY program. As in past years, JR Motorsports plans to run an extra XFINITY entry in select races with Monster Energy NASCAR Cup drivers Earnhardt and Kasey Kahne behind the wheel for two races each. But at the heart of its growth are the core four XFINITY regulars, a direction chosen in light of new driver participation guidelines that go into effect in 2017. The continuity will keep JRM from scrambling to shuffle its roster once the Chase playoff begins and the limits on Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers moonlighting in the XFINITY ranks become more stringent. But the organization will still need to make inroads against stout competition, especially Joe Gibbs Racing , which won 19 of the 33 XFINITY races last season and took the other two spots in the four-driver championship round. Reminded of the heady assignment a day after last season's finale, Allgaier was unwavering. "Even with the Gibbs guys," Allgaier said. "I don't know, I just feel like with the packages that we've seen of what's a possibility for the XFINITY Series next year, the work that we're doing at the shop and the cars and just all the things that we've been working on, I really think next year's an opportunity for us at JR Motorsports."
How Suarez heard the Edwards news
Daniel Suarez tells the story of where he was when he heard the news that he will be taking over for Carl Edwards in the No. 19 for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.