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
Decker sisters qualify for Truck race at Martinsville
MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Successful late model drivers Claire and Paige Decker, along with cousin Natalie Decker, all hoped to take the green flag in Saturday's Alpha Energy Solutions 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway . Claire, 21, and Paige, 23, are sisters from Eagle River, Wisconsin, and both made the field, qualifying 31st (92.038 mph) and 30th (92.389 mph) respectively. They are only the second pair of sisters ever to compete in the same Truck Series race, joining twins Amber and Angela Cope. Paige would finish the race 25th while Claire finished in the 27th position. Claire, a former NASCAR Drive for Diversity competitor, drove the No. 10 Chevrolet owned by Jennifer Jo Cobb . Paige was behind the wheel of Mike Harmon 's No. 74 RAM, having finished 30th in Harmon's truck in her series debut at Martinsville last fall. Cousin Natalie, 18, also a D4D alumna, was driving the No. 14 Chevrolet owned by Bob Newberry but did not make the field after qualifying in 38th place for a 32-truck field. All told, 18 female drivers have competed in Truck Series races, led by Cobb, who has 117 starts. Cobb also boasts the best finish by a female in series history -- sixth at Daytona in 2011. The highest finish by a female at Martinsville belongs to Deborah Renshaw, 15th in 2004. Only once in NASCAR national series history have more than three women competed in the same race. That happened in the Truck Series at Martinsville in 2010, when the Cope twins, Cobb and Johanna Long all took the green flag. On nine other occasions, three women have raced in the same NASCAR national series event: twice in Sprint Cup , four times in the XFINITY Series and four times in the Truck Series.
History at forefront for Darlington, Bojangles'
RELATED: See all the throwback schemes " Full throwback coverage CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- It took only one trip to Darlington Raceway in 2014 to convince Bojangles' CEO Clifton Rutledge that the popular restaurant chain needed to remain affiliated with the legendary NASCAR track. That was before the track's lone Sprint Cup Series race returned to the Labor Day weekend date it had held for decades -- and before track officials unveiled the "throwback weekend" format that was such a huge hit in its debut last season. "My first year here, after the race was over I came back and met with our senior VP of marketing … they were already starting to talk about things for the following year and I said, 'Well, let's just go ahead and renew now,' " Rutledge told NASCAR.com Tuesday. So they did. In September of '14, officials announced a five-year extension that would keep Bojangles' as the race entitlement sponsor through 2019. The company had begun sponsorship of the race in 2012. Sunday, the track will host the 67th running of the annual Bojangles' Southern 500 (6 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Obviously Rutledge saw something he liked on his first visit to the historic venue. "I did," he said. "First of all, it's the Southern 500; it's one of those races that goes back to when I was a kid, and then for it to be moved back to Labor Day weekend was a great thing. But the passion that I saw there -- it's not one of the larger tracks but the passion is there. The fans that are there -- those fans are our fans. They're our customers and there's just a connection between that race. Being in the Carolinas, two iconic brands, it just made sense to keep it as long as we can keep it." The throwback-themed weekend garnered plenty of attention, and the International Speedway Corp.-owned facility was a finalist for the "Sports Event of the Year" award presented by the Street & Smith's Sports Business Journal. "To be able to help support Darlington in that, it was just wonderful," Rutledge said. "The fans loved it. We had Grand Funk Railroad (play a pre-race concert) last year; we have Kansas this year." Rutledge also noted that former "Brady Bunch" star Barry Williams, who played Greg Brady, will be singing the national anthem before this year's event. "Last year it was a wonderful, wonderful event and this year I think even more of the drivers and teams have gotten involved with the paint schemes and things like that," he said. The association with Bojangles' "means everything," Kerry Tharp, president of Darlington Raceway , said. "It's two iconic brands in my mind," he said. "Darlington in NASCAR and Bojangles' in the restaurant business. And for where we are, location-wise, I think it's a great fit. I couldn't be more excited about it. They do a great job with their marketing and activation for this event. Their ability to get the word out and raise awareness for our event is tremendous. In my mind it's the best partnership there is in sports." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Kyle Larson's parents missed son's first Sprint Cup win, but eager to see more
Perhaps Mike and Janet Larson should have seen it coming as they proudly and nervously watched their television and computer screens while son Kyle led the field to the checkered flag in Sunday's Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway . The Larsons attend a healthy dose of their 24-year-old son's NASCAR races, but somehow have missed each of Kyle's inaugural NASCAR victories from the K&N Series, to the Camping World Truck Series and XFINITY Series. They were at home in Elk Grove, California, on Sunday when Larson scored his first victory at the sport's premier Cup level, too. "That's OK though," Mike Larson said, his voice full of happiness and emotion. "As long as he wins, I don't have to be there. "Janet and I would have been in the grandstands anyway, that's where we go every time to watch him race. It would have taken us half the (victory) ceremony anyway just trying to get back over there (to Victory Lane)." Instead, the Larsons stood in front of their television sets, tears rolling, hearts full, taking it all in. The dedication, the sacrifices, the hope, the joy that was this family's "every weekend" for years had resulted in a big-time, clutch victory three weeks before NASCAR's playoffs, the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . And while Mike and Janet might not have been trackside last weekend, they still had quite the view. "I was upstairs watching the end of the race, thinking 'Man, Janet is awful quiet today,'" Mike Larson said. "And then it got to be that last restart and Kyle gets the lead and I can hear her starting to stress. I don't hardly make a sound, but I thought, 'She's stressing me out.' "My heart, I'm telling you, it was just pumping over those last nine laps. I just kept thinking a yellow is going to come out, you think something is going to happen to derail this. I'm still very quiet watching, but then my arms went straight up in the air ... and I cried. I can admit that. "I get emotional about that." The Larsons can smile about their timing now. They took Kyle to his first race a week after he was born. Then, this close-knit family spent years together trekking around the West Coast watching Larson win and dominate races – karts and USAC features – from the time he was a little boy. From childhood, he loved this sport of racing so much he dressed up as NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon for Halloween – and still has the photo proof. The Larson's support has never wavered or waned even as their son earned his shot in NASCAR's big leagues and has quickly emerged as one of the most popular drivers on the circuit. Truth be told, the kind, funny, humble and extremely talented third-year Cup driver Larson has been one of the sport's bona fide stars even before hoisting his first Cup trophy. And now the Chip Ganassi Racing driver is a legitimate first-time title contender, too. And he should be quite optimistic about his chances at hoisting the big trophy. RELATED: Current stars' first Sprint Cup Series victory Larson's 2014 showing in Chase races – not as a Chase contender – was an incredible rookie effort and an enviable clutch performance. He boasted six top-10 finishes in the his No. 42 Target Chevrolet during the final 10 races that year. The Chase venues have been good for Larson. In the Chicago Chase-opener, Larson has finishes of third and seventh. His overall average finish at Dover is 6.2, and he's never fared worse than 11th there. He has a runner-up finish at Kansas (2014), was third at Martinsville in April and finished fifth at Homestead last year. He has at least one top-10 finish at every Chase track. "He thinks those are good tracks for him," his team owner Chip Ganassi said Sunday evening. "We think they're good tracks. He's shown before he knows his way around Miami [Homestead]. That's always good, to be good at the final track. "He's a shootout kind of guy. A lot of those races turn into shootouts. You're not so much racing the entire field in those races a lot of times. I look forward to it. ... I think he's the kind of driver that the Chase is made for, that format." After a throwback weekend at Darlington Raceway , NASCAR's newest Chase contender Larson will host his "Outlaw Kart Showcase" at hometown Cycleland Speedway in Chico, California. Less than two weeks later, Larson will begin his first Chase run thanks to that emotional, hard-fought victory Sunday. "This feels different because it's taken me a lot longer than it took me in any of the other stuff to get a win," Larson said Sunday. "It took me a couple months to win my first sprint car race, four days after my 15th birthday. Took me a few months to win when I got into USAC. Took me a few years to win an Outlaw race. "This, after the way my rookie season started, coming close a few times, not getting it done, you can visualize the win that early in your career. It's going to happen. It's going to happen. But it just never happened. "This one's different just cause of how long we had to wait and how much harder I've had to work for it. Like I said, it's special because all the hard work's paid off." And the good news for the Larson family is there will be plenty more wins to experience first-hand, and good odds they celebrate a championship sometime soon too.
Jeremy Clements' 'Black Widow' Darlington paint scheme honors family
RELATED: Full Darlington coverage " Throwback paint schemes Jeremy Clements Racing is excited to announce they will be fielding a Throwback paint scheme this coming Labor Day weekend at Darlington Raceway . The No. 51 Camaro SS will be sponsored by long time partners www.repairablevehicles.com and will feature the "Black Widow" paint scheme that was driven by a number of racing greats in the late '50s in the likes of Hall of Famers Buck Baker and Rex White and powered by the renowed engine buliders of the time, Jeremy's grandfather and great uncle, Crawford and Louis Clements. Crawford and Louis both also crew chiefed as well for some all time greats. Crawford crew chiefed Hall of Famers Junior Johnson, Buck Baker and AJ Foyt all to wins the early '60s, and Louis crew chiefed Rex White to the 1960 Cup Championship. "I'm really proud to honor my grandfather (who started me in racing) and my great uncle with this cool Black Widow Paint Scheme from the '50s," Jeremy said. "Even more excited to represent them and Clements Racing Engines in our home state at Darlington Raceway ." Buck Baker in his Black Widow.
Elliott wins Snowball Derby after Bell disqualified
NASCAR Nation was buzzing Sunday and into Monday about the results of the 48th annual Snowball Derby Super Late Model Race. Specifically, the chatter was regarding race winner Chase Elliott and the driver who crossed the start/finish line first. The two were not the same. Christopher Bell , who won at Eldora in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in July, took the checkered flag in his Kyle Busch -owned entry before being disqualified less than an hour later for failing post-race technical inspection. That led to Elliott, who finished second to Bell, being declared the official winner -- Bell was formally scored 37th, last in the field. I feel for @CBellRacing21 , I've been there. Would much rather be the first one across the line, but I'm happy to take it home this time! — Chase Elliott (@chaseelliott) December 7, 2015 The 300-lap race on a half-mile oval in Pensacola, Florida, is the Super Bowl of late model races and has launched the careers of several drivers. Elliott won the event in 2011, and Erik Jones -- now a rising NASCAR star -- turned heads in 2012 when he outdueled Kyle Busch for the win. The event had a distinct NASCAR flavor, with the following drivers also competing in the main event: Dalton Sargeant (fourth), William Byron (eighth), Kaz Grala (10th), Daniel Hemric (11th), Johanna Long (20th) and 2014 winner John Hunter Nemechek (21st). Busch, who won the race in 2009, shared his disappointment and frustration via Twitter. Ahh the joys of ownership! Not sure why I continue the aggravation. — Kyle Busch (@KyleBusch) December 6, 2015