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Agnew crashes head-on
Jeff Agnew spins crashing head-on into the inside wall.
NASCAR Jeff Agnew | Drivers : NASCAR Drivers, Race Standings & News | NASCAR.com
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Keselowski and Hendrick: What might have been
On April 18, 2009, Mark Martin won the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway . It was the 36th NASCAR premier series win for the 50-year-old driver and his first with team owner Rick Hendrick. A week and a day later, Brad Keselowski won the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway . It was the first career win for the 25-year-old, and the first premier series victory for independent car owner James Finch. Two distinctly different races won by two distinctly different drivers. Martin's NASCAR career was beginning to wind down; Keselowski's, on the other hand, appeared to have only just begun. But there was one string that tied the two together -- Hendrick Motorsports . HMS was home to Martin, Jimmie Johnson , Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr . And it was expected by many to be the future home of the up-and-coming kid from Rochester Hills, Michigan. But a collection of factors that came together throughout the course of that season altered the racing landscape as well as the career path of Keselowski. It would be nearly three years before the next driver change at HMS. By then Keselowski had not only found a new home, but he was also on his way to winning the Sprint Cup championship. 'I WAS NOT GOING TO LOSE' The sun was out and the grandstands were packed when the 2009 Aaron's 499, the season's ninth Sprint Cup race, went green for the final time. As race leader Ryan Newman tried to keep Earnhardt Jr., the crowd favorite, in check, Keselowski darted to the inside behind Carl Edwards on the track's massive backstretch. It was a move that didn’t seem to mean much at the time. But at the start-finish line with two laps remaining, Edwards and Keselowski shot to the outside entering Turn 1. "Here they come; look at the 99 and ..." NASCAR on FOX analyst Darrell Waltrip began. " Brad Keselowski ," lead announcer Mike Joy and co-analyst Larry McReynolds chimed in. When the white flag appeared, Edwards and Keselowski had caught and were beginning to pull away from Newman and Earnhardt Jr. Racing back through the tri-oval, Keselowski turned his No. 09 Chevrolet to the outside, and then quickly dropped to the bottom as Edwards moved up to block. Realizing the bottom lane was now open, Edwards reacted quickly -- but not quickly enough. Contact sent the No. 99 Ford spinning. Edwards' car came off the track briefly and was beginning to settle back onto the track it was struck by Newman's Chevrolet. The impact sent Edwards roof-first into the frontstretch catch fence. Meanwhile, Keselowski kept his foot in the gas, racing across the finish line for the win just ahead of Earnhardt Jr. "I was not going to lose," Keselowski said in his post-race winner's interview. "I was not going to lift and (I was going to) hold my ground and consequences be damned." A full-time competitor at the time for JR Motorsports (which, coincidentally, counts Earnhardt Jr. and Hendrick among its ownership group) in what is now the NASCAR XFINITY Series, Keselowski said he didn't know what the future held after his first premier series win. "I know I don't have anything locked in," he said. "That's really all I can say ... I don't have a job secured for next year, and everything to this point has been wait-and-see. I know this certainly can't hurt." But behind the scenes, moves were already underway. Finch's Phoenix Racing, which purchased it engines from HMS, had put Keselowski in the car at the suggestion of Hendrick. And the JRM/Hendrick pipeline, which grooms talent in the lower series to help restock the Sprint Cup program, was taking root. Keselowski had made two starts for Hendrick the previous year, and would make seven all together in '09, in addition to five races with Finch. Perhaps his future wasn't as cloudy as it appeared. "Rick had come out and told me, actually had made it a point to say to the media that he thought I was a future driver at Hendrick," Keselowski told NASCAR.com recently. There was only one problem. SWAN SONG? On July 4, 2008, HMS officials announced that Martin had signed a two-year agreement to drive the organization's No. 5 Chevrolet. According to the news release, Martin, who would run a full schedule in 2009, would "run a partial Sprint Cup schedule ... in 2010, sharing the No. 5 Chevy with a to-be-determined second driver.” By most accounts, that driver was expected to be Keselowski. But in May of '09, less than three weeks after Martin's Phoenix victory, HMS officials announced a revision to the '08 agreement. The veteran driver would return in 2010 to once again run the entire season. With Keselowski waiting in the wings and Martin winning and agreeing to return the following year, "Rick was kind of half pregnant," Keselowski said. "He (was) stuck. "My feeling was, after I had won Talladega, I'm going to get this 5 car ride partially next year, pair it with something else, let's go. I didn't know what it was going to be. We'll figure it out; let's go." A phone call and subsequent meeting with Hendrick, however, changed all that. "I was kind of expecting more of a 'Hey, we're going to expedite the process of clearing out the rest of this,' " Keselowski said of the meeting, "And instead I got a 'Hey, I don't have a ride for you. You need to figure something else out. I'll try to help.' "That was late April, early May of that year. My intent ... was to give him that time to kind of make right on it somehow, find a ride because he had made me the promise that I would have that car. It didn't sit all that well, but I understood the circumstances and so forth." Months passed and Keselowski busied himself with his full-time XFINITY Series effort at JRM while making a handful of Sprint Cup starts for Hendrick and Finch. Hendrick, in the meantime, was exploring the various avenues that might keep Keselowski in the HMS camp. Possible scenarios included Stewart-Haas Racing , at the time a two-team effort, and Red Bull Racing. Consideration was even given to fielding a Sprint Cup entry out of the JR Motorsports shop, according to the owner. But the pieces didn't fit and as the summer wore on, Keselowski's future remained uncertain. "I wanted him to wait a year," Hendrick told NASCAR.com. "... I don't remember all the details, but I do remember that Mark had done so well, and I had tried to talk (Mark) into staying. "I've told all our guys, the first time I sat down with Brad he impressed me because he was so intense about the whole car and wanted to be involved in everything. He was just so committed. I told our guys he's got the right attitude about racing and driving. I just needed him to wait." Waiting, though, wasn't part of Keselowski's plan. "My perception is a driver is a lot like a perishable fruit," Keselowski said. "You've got so much time, then he spoils and goes bad. There are a lot of variables, much like anything." PENSKE COMES CALLING The Keselowski family has always been involved in racing. Brad's father Bob was an ARCA Series standout and a former winner in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Ron Keselowski, an uncle, scored two top-five finishes in 68 premier series starts while older brother Brian Keselowski has one or more starts in all three of NASCAR's national series. "We knew the Keselowski name from being here in Detroit," Walt Czarnecki, an executive vice president at Penske Corp., said. "His dad, his uncle, all that. They would run out at MIS ( Michigan International Speedway ) when (Penske) owned the track." But it was a business associate, lawyer/agent John Caponigro, who brought up the young driver's name during a conversation in 2009. "We thought he was committed to Hendrick," Czarnecki said. "He'd been on loan to James Finch to run several races. But some things were changing." Conversations with Keselowski ensued, in Michigan as well as Mooresville, North Carolina, where Team Penske is headquartered. "All this time," Czarnecki said, "Still having this somewhat uncertain situation with Mr. Hendrick." Team Penske had grown from a two-team to a three-team organization in '08, fielding cars for drivers Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman and Sam Hornish Jr . In '09 Newman departed to join owner/driver Tony Stewart at Stewart-Haas Racing and 32-year-old David Stremme was brought on board to fill the open seat. But the Keselowski opportunity was intriguing, according to Czarnecki. "We've tried to sign on what we consider to be the best available young drivers with a great deal of potential that we could mold and have them grow in our organization," he said. "And I think that Brad certainly fit that description. "But above and beyond that, he had a bigger vision as to what role he wanted to play in terms of the development of the team. ... Just how he saw different things coming together ... "Some of it may have been a little unrealistic; some of it was certainly the enthusiasm of a young man who had a goal in mind. ... But he had this great enthusiasm and he had this great desire and this great commitment. And that appealed to us." With the Hendrick effort seemingly stalled, Keselowski went back to Penske with a request -- to compete full-time in both the Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series. In addition to its Sprint Cup effort, Team Penske was fielding one full-time XFINITY Series team with driver Justin Allgaier . Expanding that program to two teams running all the races was problematic, given the economy at the time. Told such a scenario was unlikely, Keselowski was left to consider his few available options. But Penske officials continued to work until enough of the appropriate pieces were in place. "Sure enough, Roger called me one night and said 'Alright, I've got it put together,' " Keselowski said. "It kind of caught me off guard. I was sold. That's it; he made it happen." "I couldn't sit around and wait. ... Roger had gone above and beyond to put something together that I felt like was the opportunity I needed. ... The economy was on its way down fast; Roger (through his various businesses) had a lot of immunities to the economy. Rick made it very clear to me that he was not going to invest himself without having a sponsor, and the economy was not in a spot where he could facilitate that." Hendrick had been aware of the Penske interest from the beginning, having had conversations with his fellow team owner about Keselowski's status. "Roger called me and asked me could he talk to him," Hendrick said. "I didn't want to stand in his way. Brad's a hell of a talent. It was a timing issue. "It's worked out for him. At his age it would have been nice if we could have kept him. ... If I got a call from Roger and I was in his spot I would have done exactly what he did." POSTSCRIPT On Sept. 1, 2009, Team Penske officials announced that the organization had signed Keselowski to compete full-time in both the Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series beginning the following season. Since then, Keselowski has won 17 Sprint Cup races, 28 XFINITY Series races and championships in both series. "I don't want to sound mercenary but he brought us our first Sprint Cup championship (in 2012)," Czarnecki said. "Because that vision that he outlined, we tried to work with him and bring people along, bring people into the organization, have him work with people like (crew chief) Paul Wolfe, it was really the realization of that vision. That's what it (has) meant. "And his intensity hasn't changed." Former teammates Busch and Hornish have departed, and fellow driver AJ Allmendinger has come and gone. Keselowski, now 32, is the veteran of a Penske group that now includes 25-year-old teammate Joey Logano . "I wasn’t looking to switch," Keselowski said. "If things would have gone the way they were supposed to go before Mark won that race at Phoenix, I would still be there."
SHR tweaks pit crews of No. 10, No. 14 teams
In an effort to improve pit stops, Stewart-Haas Racing has moved around several crew members between its teams. This past weekend's Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond International Raceway saw different faces on different teams. So let's start with the easy stuff: The No. 4 ( Kevin Harvick ) and No. 41 ( Kurt Busch ) looked to be the same as at Daytona. Both teams have been performing at a top level for years, and we didn't see any changes as of Richmond. Now the fun stuff. The No. 10 car of Danica Patrick had a different front carrier, rear changer, and rear carrier. The team moved rear carrier Matt Holzbaur to the front and added rear changer Jonathan Sherman and rear carrier Jeremy Howard. Both Sherman and Howard came from the No. 38 team ( Landon Cassill ), which is pit supported by SHR. The No. 14 of Tony Stewart got a new front changer in Ryan Mulder. Mulder was moved from the rear of the No. 10 to the front of the No. 14. The No. 38 team got a new front changer, front carrier, rear changer and rear carrier. Bryan Jacobsen moved from the No. 14 is now on the front with Jeff Shoaf, who moved from the No. 10 team. Anchoring the rear are now Chris Jackson and Tyler Bullard, who previously had worked up front on the 38. From what we can tell, no new pit crew members were hired or fired, just a restructuring of crewmen. Sometimes it takes a shake up to get the best crews together and it looks like SHR is trying to find the best combinations for its teams. For more pit crew news, visit PitTalks.com .
Hendrick employees receive Gordon commemorative rings
Photos courtesy of Jeff Gordon 's Twitter account, @JeffGordonWeb RELATED: Photos of Gordon through the years Christmas arrived in April at Hendrick Motorsports on Tuesday, and it was worth the wait. Four-time champion Jeff Gordon was on hand with team owner Rick Hendrick to distribute some pretty slick hardware. Celebrating Gordon's career in style, Hendrick and the NASCAR on FOX broadcaster gave out more than 600 rings commemorating the driver of the No. 24's legendary career. Gordon tweeted about the special gathering. Handing out career commemorating rings to everyone @TeamHendrick . Thankful to be part of this organization. #TeamJG pic.twitter.com/VkFJG3UhiX — Jeff Gordon (@JeffGordonWeb) April 26, 2016
Kahne and able: With recent success, Hendrick driver poised for career revival
RICHMOND, Va. -- For the second time in three weeks, Kasey Kahne finished among the top 10 in Sprint Cup Series competition. There was a time in his career that would have been par for the course. Right now, it’s an extremely encouraging sign of renewal. Kahne is coming off his best finish of the still-early 2016 season -- a fourth-place run at Richmond International Raceway on Sunday. And it already equals his top effort of 2015 (three fourth-place showings) and puts him in reasonable position to better the mark of three top-five finishes he scored in both the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Simply put, it appears that Kahne, the 2004 Rookie of the Year, is back on track. His team regained the mojo that he regularly demonstrated just a few years ago with double-digit top-five runs (in 2012 and 2013) and multi-win seasons. It’s the kind of can-do that resulted in him being hired by the esteemed Hendrick Motorsports organization to compete under its banner for the 2012 season. And it’s meeting the high expectations that this powerhouse team has, considering Kahne’s teammates include six-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson , perennial winner and the sport’s Most Popular Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr . and the sport’s newest whiz kid, Chase Elliott , who replaced retired four-time champion Jeff Gordon ahead of this season. Listen to Kahne speak about the uptick in his finishing order and you might be surprised to hear the driver talk as much about the importance of good kumbaya as the comfort of having the best equipment in the garage. It’s the people that Kahne thinks make the difference. And while that may be a popular catchphrase, Kahne is convinced the belief in his team -- and second-year crew chief Keith Rodden -- truly has restored his course and energized the crew. "It just starts with the attitudes of everybody, from myself to the team," Kahne said. "How we all appreciate each other, work together, know that each particular person is there for a reason and is really good at what each one of us does. I think it’s more being together, being a group, a solid team. To me that started three, four weeks ago, and each week it seems to get better from the previous week. We’re going to keep heading in that direction. "I think the closer you get as a group, the closer you get with your crew chief, your engineers, the guys on pit road, the car chief, the guys building the race car, all of that is communication to me. All of that kind of makes the whole race on Sunday better when you are better in those areas." Judging by the results of Kahne’s No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet team of late, it would be hard to argue with the philosophy. And while next week’s race at Talladega Superspeedway is typically considered a roll of the dice, Kahne has run well there -- even scoring runner-up finishes in 2006 and 2009. And he is even better at Kansas and Charlotte, where the series heads after Talladega. Kahne has four wins at Charlotte -- including a sweep of the 2006 season there -- and Kansas was one of his three top-five finishes in 2015. He has three pole positions in Kansas and five top-five finishes in his last nine races there. Although Kahne is hardly saying his team has "arrived," he does like the direction it has taken. This past weekend at Richmond, for example, Kahne qualified eighth and was second-fastest in final practice -- so the race result was not an anomaly. "When you have each other’s backs, you work together as a team and you keep getting better," Kahne said. "That’s where we’ve been. That’s where we’ve been excelling at. "I think there’s kind of consistency on the whole weekend. There’s more times I look at the scoring pylon and I’m at the top half rather than the bottom half -- whether it’s one of the practices, qualifying or race. "I think it’s a slow process, really. We were so far gone there for a little while, it takes time to start getting back to where we need to be. "We’re heading in that direction now, so it’s really nice.’"
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 coming to Chicagoland
RELATED: Buy tickets for Chicagoland Photo credit: Stewart-Haas Racing 's Twitter account, @StewartHaasRcng NEW YORK – April 26, 2016 – Nickelodeon today announced that it is the entitlement sponsor of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday, Sept. 18, dubbed the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway . Danica Patrick has signed on to drive a special car for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400, which will be broadcast on NBCSN at 2:30 p.m. ET, and will feature a weekend of action, activities and fun for the entire family with the iconic Heroes in a Half Shell. NASCAR star Danica Patrick , a Roscoe, Illinois native, helped kick off the partnership in true Turtles style. She unveiled her No. 10 April O’Neil/Nature's Bakery Chevrolet SS at an event at Wrigley Square in Millennium Park with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, then took her car for a spin down Michigan Ave. She will join a number of other drivers with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles paint schemes for the Sept. 18 race. Photo courtesy of Chicagoland Speedway 's Twitter account, @ChicagoIndSpdwy This Sept. 15-18 marks the sixth consecutive year that Chicagoland Speedway will kick off the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . The Nickelodeon partnership will include sponsorship of the 2017 kickoff race, as well. "We are excited to partner with Chicagoland Speedway to continue sponsoring and participating in marquee racing events that resonate with motorsports fans across the country," said Anthony DiCosmo, Senior Vice President, Sports Marketing and Development, Nickelodeon. "Just as we did with last season's SpongeBob SquarePants 400 at Kansas Speedway , the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 will continue to expand our relationship with NASCAR, while working with another best-in-class ISC track to give fans a unique and engaging race experience that the whole family can enjoy." "We are thrilled to partner with a world class brand like Nickelodeon for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 on Sept. 18," said Scott Paddock, Chicagoland Speedway President. "This is an exciting opportunity for us to partner with one of the preeminent youth focused brands on the planet to deliver an unprecedented level of family entertainment while engaging Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fans of all ages." "It's great to be back in my home state of Illinois to be a part of this exciting announcement for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400," said Patrick. "The Nickelodeon-sponsored races are really cool because they truly are fun for the entire family. Nature's Bakery and Nickelodeon have put together an awesome paint scheme and I can't wait to have the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and April O'Neil riding along with me in September." Patrick's unique car was designed by Chicago artist Hebru Brantley, who will also design the race trophy, additional Turtles-branded paint schemes and other visual elements. Brantley breaks down the walls of cultural boundaries through his art and inspired by his 1980s Chicago upbringing, Brantley's work touches on tough subjects in a way that may be easily digestible to the viewer, by telling his stories through youthful characters and their adventures. Brantley’s work can be described as pop infused contemporary art inspired by Japanese anime and the bold aesthetics of street art pioneers Jean Michel Basquiat, KAWS and Keith Haring. During the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 race weekend, attendees will be able to enjoy fun family activities in the Nickelodeon Kids Zone, located in Champion’s Park. The area will feature appearances from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costumed characters, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles photo station and more. Nickelodeon has a long-standing relationship with NASCAR, teaming up with the motorsports giant on several programming and racing events. On the track, the network has sponsored the SpongeBob SquarePants 400 at Kansas Speedway in 2015; brought the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to the Atlanta Motor Speedway for the NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races in 2014; participated in the Bank of America 500 week in 2012; and the SpongeBob SquarePants Movie 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, NC in 2004. NASCAR has also contributed talent and content to Nickelodeon programming such as the Kids’ Choice Awards ( Danica Patrick , 2012 and 2013), Kids' Choice Sports Awards ( Danica Patrick , 2014, Ben Kennedy , 2015), Team Umizoomi ( Jeff Gordon , 2012), Hammer Down (2014), which aired on Nicktoon’s NickSports block, and an upcoming Bubble Guppies episode ( Jimmie Johnson , 2015). Currently in its fourth season, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is seen in over 170 countries and territories and translated in 50+ languages. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles follows four mutant turtles—Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo—trained in the art of ninjutsu by their mutant rat sensei, Master Splinter, who teaches the turtles to battle evil from the New York City sewers. Executive produced by Ciro Nieli and Brandon Auman, the series is created at Nickelodeon Animation Studios in Burbank, Calif. Additionally, this summer the Turtles will once again defend the streets of New York City in Paramount Pictures' highly anticipated theatrical movie, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, which arrives in theaters June 3."
Move over Nelly, Kanye -- it's Jeff Gordon rapping
MORE: NASCAR Goes West? How 'bout (Kanye) West Goes NASCAR? Look, we all know Jeff Gordon can breakdance, but don't get your hopes up on ever seeing the four-time premier series champ and recently retired driver spinning for us any time soon. Especially since he wouldn't even do it for the Leader of the Free World, President Barack Obama. RELATED: Breakdancing with Barack? Gordon passes So what's the next best thing? Gordon rapping? Yeah, we're just going to go ahead and say the next best thing is Gordon rapping. With NASCAR out west for Sunday's race at Auto Club Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio), Gordon stopped by FOX Sports Live in L.A. for an interview with FOX Sports Live hosts Jay Onrait and Dan O'Toole, who got the broadcaster to flex his flow and rap some lyrics from songs that name drop him, from Nelly to Kanye West. It's nothing short of amazing. Mic drop. @JeffGordonWeb raps @kanyewest and @Nelly_Mo . We also found his long lost relative. What an interview. Wow https://t.co/1dRdOpTTuk — FSLive: #JayAndDan (@foxsportslive) March 19, 2016 Mic drop. @JeffGordonWeb raps @kanyewest and @Nelly_Mo . We also found his long lost relative. What an interview. Wow https://t.co/1dRdOpTTuk — FSLive: #JayAndDan (@foxsportslive) March 19, 2016
Jeff Gordon to return to the site of his last NSCS win
NASCAR.com’s Jonathan Merryman talks with NASCAR on Fox Analyst Jeff Gordon about the upcoming race weekend at Martinsville Speedway.
Drive to End Hunger joins forces with Kasey Kahne
Kasey Kahne is picking up where Jeff Gordon left off in helping promote the AARP Foundation's Drive to End Hunger campaign, with Hendrick Motorsports ' relationship with the cause extending to a sixth Sprint Cup season. Drive to End Hunger will be primary sponsor of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet at two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races in 2016: Aug. 20 at Bristol Motor Speedway and Nov. 6 at Texas Motor Speedway . The cause will be an associate sponsor for the team in all other premier series events. The Drive to End Hunger launched in 2011 as a primary sponsor for Hendrick Motorsports and four-time Sprint Cup Series champion Gordon. Since its inception, the organization has donated more than 34 million meals. "Drive to End Hunger has been an incredible partner of Hendrick Motorsports ," Kahne said in a press release. "They made an unbelievable impact with Jeff , and I'm excited to work with them to continue those efforts and make a difference for the millions of older Americans who need our support. We hope to do as much good as possible and keep building this great relationship." Kahne joined Hendrick Motorsports in 2012 and has five victories in the No. 5 Chevrolet. So far in 2016, Kahne has two top-10 finishes, his best mark of the season two weeks ago at Texas. He has 17 career race wins. "Winning races takes a team, and teamwork is at the core of all our efforts to create a food-secure nation," said Lisa Marsh Ryerson, AARP Foundation president. "That's why we are so pleased to continue our relationship with Rick Hendrick, whose commitment to winning is unparalleled, and to have Kasey Kahne join us as we work to help the more than 10 million older Americans who face the threat of hunger every single day." The No. 5 paint scheme will be a little different from the one fans saw on the No. 24. The design uses a black background with candy apple red and white accents, highlighted by a sleek matte finish. The hood will showcase a larger Drive to End Hunger "Forked D" logo. "We continue to be inspired by Drive to End Hunger and the response it receives from the NASCAR community," said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports . "Thanks to our amazing fans and the great work of AARP Foundation, many people have received life-changing assistance. That's ultimately how our success is measured, and we look forward to doing much more together."