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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
NASCAR touring champs set for gala celebration
MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- Anthony Kumpen came the farthest, making the hours- long plane ride from Europe. It was a return trip he has happily accepted. Kumpen and six other champions from the NASCAR touring and regional series have congregated in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area this week for a celebration of their title-clinching seasons. The activities culminate in Saturday's NASCAR Night of Champions Touring Awards at the Charlotte Convention Center. Kumpen joins Justin Haley (K&N Pro Series East), Todd Gilliland (K&N West), Cayden Lapcevich (Pinty's Series), Doug Coby (Whelen Modified Tour), Burt Myers (Whelen Southern Modified Tour) and Matt Bowling (NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champ) among those honored at Saturday night's gala. It's the Belgian-born driver's second visit in three years after capping off his second NASCAR Whelen Euro Series crown. "It's great to be back. It's a fantastic event, a fantastic week," Kumpen said. "We're really proud as European drivers that we can be part of the NASCAR family. The championship is growing, we had a sold-out event in the UK at Brands Hatch, so it's becoming big in Europe." Kumpen, 38, has already commemorated a special celebration of the championship in the Euro Series' season finale with a VIP guest. Kumpen has a connection with four-time NASCAR premier series champion Jeff Gordon that goes beyond the No. 24 adorning his Chevrolet: He hails from the same hometown in Belgium as Gordon's wife, Ingrid Vandebosch. Kumpen was already on edge entering the season's final weekend. Then came the e-mail popping into his inbox from Gordon, indicating that he'd be in attendance at the Zolder, Belgium, road course. "So the stress level went a bit up," he said with a laugh. "We asked him to become grand marshal of the race, which he did and which was fantastic for our championship." Kumpen said he was scheduled for a tour of the Hendrick Motorsports shop Friday with Gordon serving as his guide. But before the drivers don their formal wear for Saturday, the touring champions savored a rare opportunity to meet and interact, mixing it up in Thursday's karting challenge at GoPro Motorplex. "It's been super-special so far. Just being in the same place as all these other champions is super cool to meet them," Gilliland said. "I've heard their names and watched their races on TV, but I've never really met some of them. It's been really cool to meet them in an area like this and to be out here at GoPro Motorplex racing with them is awesome." RELATED: Meet Gilliland, complete NASCAR Next class Kumpen led the first half of a Media/Champions race then edged Haley by half a kart-length to prevail in the eighth annual Champions Karting Challenge. For the 17-year-old Haley, his participation in this week's events was a year- long wait after watching William Byron precede him as K&N East champion last season. "It's really, really cool what NASCAR does for us," Haley said. "I sat there last year and saw what William did on social media and how cool it was, so I thought it'd be a cool experience to come and do it myself."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. cleared to resume NASCAR competition
RELATED: Dale through the years " Recovery timeline CAIN: Dale Jr.'s strong stand makes him, sport better NASCAR premier series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr . has received medical clearance to resume his racing career, Hendrick Motorsports announced Thursday. Earnhardt, 42, was sidelined for the final 18 races of the 2016 season after suffering a concussion. On Wednesday, he participated in an on-track testing session at Darlington Raceway under the supervision of Charlotte neurosurgeon Dr. Jerry Petty. Earnhardt was cleared by Dr. Micky Collins, medical director of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program in Pittsburgh. Collins, who consulted with Dr. Petty following Wednesday's on-track activity, has overseen Earnhardt's rehabilitation program and also treated him for a similar injury in 2012. "I expected things to go really well yesterday, and that’s exactly what happened," Earnhardt said of an afternoon spent behind the wheel at the 1.366-mile South Carolina track. "Actually getting in a race car was an important final step, and it gives me a ton of confidence going into 2017." Earnhardt completed 185 laps in his No. 88 Chevrolet during the course of the nearly five-hour session. Crew chief Greg Ives was on hand to oversee his driver’s efforts as well. Earnhardt, recently voted the series most popular driver for the 14th consecutive season, said he expects to do more testing in January "to help knock the rust off." RELATED: Junior wins NMPA Sprint Most Popular Driver Award "When it's time to go to Daytona, I' ll be ready," the winner of 26 premier series races said. The 2017 racing season officially gets underway with the 59th running of the Daytona 500 , scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 26 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Earnhardt will not compete in the annual non-points, season-opening race, The Clash at Daytona International Speedway (Feb. 18, 8 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Instead, HMS officials said Alex Bowman , who filled in for Earnhardt in 10 of the final 18 races of 2016, will drive the team's No. 88 entry. Bowman won the pole at Phoenix in November, his first in the series. "Everyone agreed that he more than earned (the opportunity)," Earnhardt said, "and (sponsor) Nationwide was 100 percent on board." RELATED: NASCAR community reacts to Junior's return It's possible Earnhardt could participate in up to two additional tests – Hendrick Motorsports is one of four teams expected to take part in a Goodyear tire test scheduled for Jan. 10-11 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway , and the season's first organizational test is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 31/Feb. 1 at Phoenix International Raceway . Collins called Earnhardt "one of the hardest-working patients I've ever encountered." "He's done everything we've asked, and we believe he is ready to compete at a professional level again and can withstand the normal forces of a race car driver," Collins said. "Dale has been very open with us, and we've had plenty of time for his treatment, so we feel very good about his long -term prospects and how this has been managed by everyone involved." Team owner Rick Hendrick said he's proud of Earnhardt "for listening to his body and standing up to take responsibility for his health. "He's worked extremely hard and set a terrific example for others," Hendrick said. "It's great news as we go into the offseason, and we can't wait to see him back on the race track at Daytona." In addition to Bowman, four-time series champion Jeff Gordon also drove for the team in eight starts during Earnhardt's absence. Earnhardt was 13th in points with six top-five finishes before being sidelined prior to the July race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and wound up 32nd in the final standings. The 2012 injury forced him to miss two races; he finished 12th in points that season. &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;
Next up for Hendrick, Junior: Contract discussion
RELATED: Junior: 'Stronger than before' " Earnhardt medically cleared Rick Hendrick considers it a wonderful early Christmas present. Having Dale Earnhardt Jr . medically cleared to resume driving Hendrick's No. 88 Chevrolet has been six months in the making. And the whole storied, championship organization couldn't be happier with Thursday's official word that NASCAR's reigning Most Popular Driver will be behind the wheel for the 2017 season after missing the final 18 races of the 2016 season recovering from a concussion. "We're as big a fan of Dale's as the rest of the community and when you have the most popular driver in the sport and then lose him. ... He's a big spark plug to this place," Hendrick said. "Having him out of the car kinda deflates the place and you know, when that test finished and he came through with such flying colors, the text I got and conversation I had, you could feel it in the place even today with the rest of the teams. "It elevated the whole place." So much so that Hendrick and Earnhardt are already prepared to resume contract extension talks, Earnhardt revealed Friday in his first teleconference with the national media since getting the go-ahead to return to competition. "We're probably going to revisit that before the season starts," said Earnhardt, 42, whose current contract runs through 2017. "Before I got sick, Rick and I sat down and talked about my future and the extensions. That stuff was starting to come together and we'll revisit that shortly." It should only be a matter of ironing out details because these two NASCAR A-listers shared that they both feel re-energized by Earnhardt's recovery and return to competition. Hendrick said he was very optimistic about Earnhardt re-joining the team and resuming racing, but conceded that he realized early on in the process, that might take an extended amount of time. And he was OK with that. "You might worry about that but I think after talking to [Earnhardt's doctor] Dr. Collins, he didn't see any reason he couldn't come back if we did it the right way," Hendrick said. "A lot of credit goes to Dale for just working hard outside of the car to get himself better, stronger. "You could just see him getting stronger every week and participating here with the team and other drivers. "I just kind of refused to accept he wasn't going to be in the car." It was a good method of coping. "First of all, we care about him as a friend and a person," Hendrick said. "That's first -- and just seeing him healthy and himself, rather than trying to rush him back into the car ... "His health is priority one. We don't want him back in the car until he's OK. And we're OK. Everyone was OK with him sitting out. Once we realized he wasn't going to be in the Chase we were OK, we wanted him for the long term. "It's a tough decision to pull the plug on the year. You didn't know that maybe he would be healed up enough to come back with a few races left. But we were very fortunate with our sponsors. They put his health first. That was never a question." Now Earnhardt is OK. Listening to him speak Friday morning, he is more than OK. The two-time Daytona 500 winner is excited about his New Year's Eve wedding, the honeymoon and the promise of more competition that awaits him in February. Junior's back. "I think with Dale back in the car and Jimmie's championship, it's going to be a nice Christmas for all of us," Hendrick said. &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;gt;
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.
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