Johanna Long to compete in XFINITY, Truck events in 2015
22-year-old did not compete in any NASCAR national series in 2014 Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live Mike Affarano Motorsports announced Wednesday that Johanna Long will drive for the team in select NASCAR XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series events this season. Long is scheduled to make her debut in the No. 03 Chevrolet in the XFINITY Series opener, the Alert Today Florida 300 at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 21 (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1). "I'm grateful for the opportunity to race this season with Mike Affarano Motorsports," Long said in a statement provided by the team. "In a time when drivers are pressured to bring sponsorship money to teams in order to race, it was great to have my phone ring and be approached because of my talent." Long , a 22-year-old native of Pensacola, Florida, last competed in a NASCAR national series in 2013 with a 20-race schedule in what was then the NASCAR Nationwide (now XFINITY ) Series. Her best effort in her 41-race XFINITY career -- all spent with team owner Mary Louise Miller -- was 12th place on three occasions. Affarano's team will be making its first steps into the XFINITY ranks. The team added equipment from the former Turner Scott Motorsports organization in the offseason. "We are thrilled to have Johanna behind the wheel for 2015," Affarano stated. "She has such drive and determination that will represent our team well on and off the track, and we know she's great with attracting sponsors and fans. We're looking forward to growing and progressing as a company together this season." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Sound Off: Danica vs. Johanna
Johanna Long and Danica Patrick polarize fans in the Nationwide Series. Hear what they have to say about each other.
Long , Hornish wreck early at Phoenix
Johanna Long , Jamie Dick, and Sam Hornish Jr. wreck early at the Dollar General 200 at Phoenix.
Carmichael, Long crash hard
Ricky Carmichael spins out of Turn 4 and collects Johanna Long .
Pastrana, Cassill get turned by Long
Travis Pastrana and Landon Cassill get turned by Johanna Long
Drivers' outlook: 'The best racing you've ever seen'
RELATED: Fast facts on the enhancements CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- NASCAR's top drivers certainly gave the series' newest enhancements a double thumbs-up Monday night as the racing sanctioning body unveiled an exciting new brand of racing. And winning. Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski joined a Who's Who of NASCAR representatives on stage in downtown Charlotte to formally introduce and strongly endorse the format, which will award points throughout designated portions of the race in addition rewarding the final results. WATCH: New format explained in 1 minute "Every single race matters and not only that, every lap matters," defending Daytona 500 winner Hamlin said. "The old-school fans actually should love this. We're getting back to crowning your champion over 36 races and every single race matters." Added retired driver turned television broadcaster Jeff Burton : "It bridges what it used to be to what it is today." Finding an exciting, sensible and fair way to divvy up points and reward effort was the fundamental reasoning behind the change. And "listening to the fans," was a common refrain throughout the night. NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell reiterated that the sport values its fan feedback and anticipates the new points format as a way to spike interest for the fans and to give the drivers and teams new strategies toward a season championship trophy. WATCH: Junior's take on the format enhancements "It's a real subtle change once you stand back and look at it," Earnhardt said. "A lot of things we do bring fan interest only or driver interest only. And I think this kind of does both." As expected, NASCAR drivers took to social media to offer their reviews of the sport's big change and it was met with resounding encouragement. "Let's see. ... WIN. WIN. WIN. Sounds good to me," reigning seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson posted on Twitter. Stewart-Haas Racing driver Clint Bowyer tweeted, "Digging the new @NASCAR racing format. Going to be interesting to see how these stage points affect the way the teams race the entire race." RELATED: Drivers tweet about 2017 upgrades Certainly the different format -- which will give points to the top-10 finishers in the first two stages, plus points to the ultimate race winner and rest of the entire field -- means new tactics. And new opportunity. As part of the revised format, the regular-season points leader will be honored as the regular-season champion and given 15 playoff points when the standings are reset to start the 10-race playoff run. "Basically you're going to throw two cautions," Earnhardt said, simplifying the in-race changes. "You're going to know when they are, which is actually kind of comforting. "You're going to see basically the same format as far as who wins the race and how the races are decided. The playoff doesn't really change at all. You're just going to have two breaks in every race that are going to be potentially rewarding to your driver. "That, to me, creates interest. " Keselowski said confidently of the new system, "I would tell anybody, when you want to get up at Lap 30 for that bowl of chips, you're not going to want to get up. It's going to be the first segment and you're going to see some great action. "You're going to see a moment like the pass in the grass that's going to be for the end of the first segment. Those are the moments that are going to make you really want to watch and love NASCAR racing for a long , long time. "Wait until you see it on the race track," Keselowski promised, "When you see this on the race track, this is going to be the best racing you've ever seen."
Carl Edwards' exit could put Christopher Bell on fast track to XFINITY
How long do you think it took Christopher Bell to do the math? Carl Edwards ' announcement of his abrupt exit from the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota has had a ripple effect that could go far beyond the promotion of Daniel Suárez to a full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series ride. Because Suárez will fill Edwards' seat in NASCAR’s premier series, he won't defend his NASCAR XFINITY Series title. Bell will be one of the beneficiaries of the changes in Suárez's schedule. "Right now, we have a solid plan for Christopher," said Dave Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development (TRD) USA. "He exceeded our expectations. He got all the way to Miami (the championship race of the inaugural NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase at Homestead-Miami Speedway ). This year, we expect him to get to Miami and win. "And if circumstances play out, we really would like to get him into an XFINITY car for a couple of races. We're working hard on that, and we're optimistic, but that could very well be a domino that falls. Those are helpful -- those couple of races where there's zero pressure, but it gives you a look at the next step." Last week at the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the 22-year-old Bell wasn't thinking about the next step. He was contemplating the next race, trying to become the first native Oklahoman to win the marquee event of midget racing since Andy Hillenburg accomplished the feat in 1994. (And, no, the Andy Hillenburg in question is not the Indiana-born driver who ran NASCAR races and later bought Rockingham Speedway . The Andy Hillenburg who won the Chili Bowl is a sprint car racer from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.) Bell was also thinking about the upcoming season in the Camping World Truck Series, where his own expectations mirror those of the Toyota brass. "I guess it could open it up for me," Bell said of Edwards' departure. "But, honestly, I haven't even really thought about it, because my schedule's already set, obviously, with Kyle Busch Motorsports. That's where my focus is, and we're going to aim really hard to win races this year. "We came close on the championship last year, but we didn't win many races -- we won one time. My goal is to win races with KBM." That doesn’t mean, however, that Bell wasn't enthused about the prospect of getting his first taste of the XFINITY Series. "That's great," he said during a break between features at the Chili Bowl. "That's good that I might get a couple of races -- that's really good." The extent of Bell's participation in XFINITY races depends to some degree on sponsorship. Wilson said Suárez's primary sponsor, Arris, which also sponsored Edwards, will be confined to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup car, even though Suárez will still run between eight and 12 XFINITY races. "If he (Bell) does what he should do in '17, then, naturally, we would love to get him into an XFINITY ride in '18," Wilson said. "Yes, this could play into Christopher's further development and get him one or two more XFINITY races that we may not have foreseen prior to the news (about Edwards)." Last Saturday night, Bell fulfilled his long -standing dream of winning the Chili Bowl, noting that competing in the Truck Series had informed his approach to dirt-track racing. Biding his time in the 55-lap "A" Main, Bell started on the front row and passed polesitter Justin Grant on Lap 26. He stayed out front the rest of the way. "In years past, it's been attack, attack, attack," Bell said. "This year, it didn't have to be that way. I just ran hard enough to stay in position but not get into trouble. I was able to ride behind Justin there for a while. I knew the bottom was slowing down quite a bit and I kept trying the top. I tried it two times and I almost got passed, so I knew it was going to be a matter of too early or too late at the top. "I started to watch the big screen. (Eventual runner-up Daryn) Pittman was running the top at the time. I knew he was in eighth, and I looked up and he was third or fourth so I knew I had to go. Once I went, I was able to squeak by Justin on the straightaway, and then it was a matter of just not screwing up." That sort of patience is emblematic of Bell's maturation as a driver. Early last season, he didn't look like a championship contender. In the second race of 2016, at Atlanta, his aggressiveness led to a wreck that collected Suárez, his teammate, and fellow Toyota driver and two-time series champion Matt Crafton . But Bell won at Gateway Motorsports Park nine races into the schedule, and he finished outside the top 10 just twice in the last 16 events.
NASCAR implements stage-based race format, playoff-point incentives
RELATED: Fast facts on enhancements " Official press release NASCAR, in collaboration with its industry stakeholders, announced today competition format enhancements that will be implemented in all three of its national series -- the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The new race format is designed to emphasize aggressive racing and strategy, with the goal of delivering more dramatic moments over the course of a race and season. Monday's announcement came with NASCAR Chairman & CEO Brian France and NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell sharing the stage with drivers such as Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin, along with additional team and track representatives. All industry stakeholders collaborated on the format. "Simply put, this will make our great racing even better," said Brian France, NASCAR Chairman & CEO. "I'm proud of the unprecedented collaboration from our industry stakeholders, each of whom had a common goal -- strengthening the sport for our fans. This is an enhancement fully rooted in teamwork, and the result will be an even better product every single week." Under the new format, races will consist of three stages, with championship implications in each stage. The top-10 finishers in each stage will be awarded additional championship points. The winner of the first two stages of each race will receive one playoff point, and the race winner will receive five playoff points. Each playoff point will be added to a driver's reset total following the 26th race, if that competitor makes the playoffs. The structure also ensures that competition will be dialed up throughout the duration of the 26-race regular season, as points for both stage winners and race winners will transfer into the postseason -- and an official regular-season champion will be crownded, and rewarded with 15 playoff points to the driver's playoff reset of 2,000. The stage format also gives fans a pair of natural breaks in the action. All playoff points will carry through to the end of the third round of the postseason (Round of 8), with the Championship 4 racing straight-up at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the title. Championship points following the first two stages of each race will be awarded on a descending scale, with the stage winner receiving 10 points, second earning nine points, and so on. The race winner following the final stage will receive 40 points, second-place will earn 35, third-place 34, fourth-place 33, and so on. In addition, the top-10 drivers in regular-season points also will receive playoff points with second place earning 10 points, third place getting eight points, fourth place obtaining seven points, and so on. "These are enhancements that the NASCAR fan has long sought, and the entire industry has worked hard to develop a better racing format for our fans," said Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. "This format puts a premium on every victory and every in-race position over the course of the season. Each point can eventually result in winning or losing a championship." &lt;/p&gt;
NASCAR enhances on-track product with new stage-based race format
RELATED: NASCAR implements stage-based race format DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 23, 2017) -- NASCAR, in collaboration with industry stakeholders, announced today an enhanced competition format that will be implemented in all three of its national series -- the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series , the NASCAR XFINITY Series and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series . Increasing the sense of urgency and emphasizing aggressive racing and strategy, the race format will deliver more dramatic moments over the course of an entire race and season, with playoff point incentives on the line throughout. The enhanced format consists of the following: • Races will now consist of three stages, with championship implications in each stage. • The top-10 finishers of the first two stages will be awarded additional championship points. • The winner of the first two stages of each race will receive one playoff point, and the race winner will receive five playoff points. Each playoff point will be added to his or her reset total following race No. 26, if that competitor makes the playoffs. • All playoff points will carry through to the end of the third round of the playoffs (Round of 8), with the Championship 4 racing straight-up at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the title. • Championship points following the first two stages will be awarded on a descending scale, with the stage winner receiving 10 points, second receiving 9 points, and so on. • The race winner following the final stage will now receive 40 points, second-place will receive 35, third-place 34, fourth-place 33, and so on. "Simply put, this will make our great racing even better," said Brian France, NASCAR Chairman and CEO. "I’m proud of the unprecedented collaboration from our industry stakeholders, each of whom had a common goal -- strengthening the sport for our fans. This is an enhancement fully rooted in teamwork, and the result will be an even better product every single week." NASCAR also announced a playoff bonus structure that will see the regular season points leader honored as the regular season champion, earning 15 playoff points that will be added to the driver’s playoff reset of 2,000. In addition, the top-10 drivers in points leading into the playoffs will receive playoff points, with second place receiving 10 playoff points, third place will earn 8 points, fourth place will receive 7 points, and so on. All playoff points will carry through to the end of the Round of 8. "These are enhancements that the NASCAR fan has long sought, and the entire industry has worked hard to develop a better racing format for our fans," said Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. "This format puts a premium on every victory and every in-race position over the course of the season. Each point can eventually result in winning or losing a championship." MORE: Fast facts about NASCAR's 2017 race enhancements
Liberty University returns to Byron after JRM move
William Byron will once again be sponsored by Liberty University, following his transition to the XFINITY Series and JR Motorsports, the team announced Monday . Byron, who unveiled the No. 9 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro during a Facebook Live stream, will drive the No. 9 entry in 17 of 33 events this season, beginning with the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 25. "Welcoming back both William and reuniting with Liberty University, it feels like a homecoming for us," said Kelley Earnhardt Miller, general manager of JR Motorsports. "It's remarkable to see how quickly William has advanced his talents since he drove for our Late Model team. With the support from Liberty, we have a strong platform for him to have success at the XFINITY level." Liberty University was a previous partner with JRM during Byron's Late Model career with the team in 2014 and 2015, before he spent the past two seasons with Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Camping World Truck Series. Along with the sponsorship news, JRM also announced Dave Elenz will serve as crew chief for Byron and the No. 9 Liberty University team in 2017. Elenz, a 35-year-old native of Gaylord, Michigan, transitions from a two-year stint as crew chief of JRM's No. 88 entry. He guided the team to four victories with drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Chase Elliott and Kevin Harvick . "It's a privilege to have Liberty University on board with us in 2017," said Byron, a Liberty University freshman taking online classes. "I've been honored to have had them as a partner the last few years, and I'm excited to take them into the NASCAR XFINITY Series this season. "I'm also looking forward to working with Dave. He brings a lot to the table in terms of experience and leadership in this series. That will go a long way in helping our No. 9 team on the track this year." A schedule of the 2017 races with Liberty University as primary sponsor will be announced at a later date, as will additional partners for Byron and the No. 9 team. Apart from its primary races, Liberty University will receive associate placement in the remaining 16 events. &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;gt;