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Hot Lap: Point-of-view look at Richmond International Raceway
NASCAR's pace car driver, Brett Bodine, takes a spin around Richmond International Raceway to showcase the unique configuration the 0.75-mile track, and shares some tips on what to look for in the Toyota Owners 400.
Post-Race Reactions: Lucas Oil Raceway
Carl Edwards promises not to speed on pitroad, plus other drivers comment on the G-W-C finish.
Hemric finds perfect home at Brad Keselowski Racing
RELATED: Standings post-Atlanta STATESVILLE, N.C. -- "It's kind of a funny story how it all works out, I guess." At which point Daniel Hemric starts the tale of how he came to be in this place, the palatial new shop for Brad Keselowski Racing. Not only is he here standing on the gleaming epoxy floors, he's the team namesake's newest driver, handpicked from a promising crop of young hotshoes. As far as chance meetings go, his anecdote from the summer of 2012 makes for a tough story to top. Hemric, then a 21-year-old up-and-comer on the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour, had just converted a pass with five laps to go at Auto City Speedway in Clio, Michigan to secure his seventh win in 11 races that season, paving the way toward the series championship. The race he won was called the BRAD 100, and home-state grand marshal Keselowski -- who was making his own march to a title in NASCAR's premier series that year -- was there to greet him in Victory Lane. "He's like, 'Man, that was really cool to watch,' " Hemric recalls his current boss saying, "and that was really our first time shaking hands and meeting. Fast forward to ( Lucas Oil Raceway in Indiana) a couple months later in that year, same thing: We went on to win the race in more of a dominant fashion, but it was cool to start seeing the face and building somewhat of a relationship. "From that point on, I think we both had the understanding -- at least from my end -- that if there was ever an opportunity to put stuff together to make it work, we wanted to figure out some way, some how to race together." Those conversations kept going during their occasional encounters at the track through the years, and the timing never quite clicked for a partnership to develop until late last season. The plans for a full run this year in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series finally aligned for all parties concerned -- driver, owner, team (the No. 19 Ford) and sponsors (a full fleet including California Clean Power, Draw-Tite and Reese Brands). Hemric's early laurels are encouraging, with two top-10 efforts in the first two races of 2016 and the ever-closer reality of achieving a breakthrough win. For Hemric, a NASCAR national series victory would be the next rotation in a series of full-circle moments. The building blocks Hemric's hometown listing is a familiar one in the NASCAR community -- Kannapolis, North Carolina, a place synonymous with Earnhardt. The 25-year-old driver grew up just down the road from Dale Earnhardt Inc., his childhood overlapping with that organization's heyday. "You didn't have to go very far to see what the pinnacle was," Hemric said of his boyhood proximity to multiple racing facilities. "With the DEI shop being really close to my hometown and where I grew up and knowing that if you do all the right things and put yourself with the right people, this could be a possibility. That was at 5 or 6 years old, so now to be 25 and to be in a situation where that dream is definitely within grasp and you can really see it being a possible situation, something that you've been able to build and put yourself in, that's really cool." His own glory years started early, with go-kart victories in nearby Concord around the time he graduated from kindergarten. Though he grew up in the cradle of NASCAR's industry hub, the formative stages of Hemric's career took him everywhere -- racing Super Late Models in the Midwest, Whelen Modifieds in the Northeast, and Legends Cars in the South. Uncannily, Hemric learned from each region and each type of car, taking bits from every experience to place in his memory banks. The puzzle pieces have helped him become not only a better driver but also a better communicator, something that Chad Kendrick -- his crew chief -- detected early on. From their earliest conversations, Hemric's feedback from his first laps with the No. 19 team made its own impact. "It would overlay with the data, which was really impressive because a lot of drivers can't do that -- they can just say it was a little tight or it was a little free," said Kendrick, who has worked with current Sprint Cup Series regulars Keselowski, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney . "He's very descriptive on exactly where it gets tight, why it got tight, what he's feeling in the left-rear, right-rear, wherever it's at. So very impressed with that. "It's only two races in -- and really it's only one race in because Daytona is its own deal -- but after Atlanta, I was very impressed. And he's got mounds of talent, which is what you have to have." Setting for success Hemric has found a new home, but the team has also -- moving from its cozy former headquarters in nearby Mooresville into a lavish, 72,000-square-foot building on a country road that parallels Statesville's small regional airport. Keselowski, who documented his organization's transition in his most recent essay on his personal blog, has invested plenty of time and effort into making BKR's facility a showpiece. The move has provide the team exponentially more space, allowing them to handle hanging bodies on their fleet of Ford F-150 trucks. There's a paint shop in the back of the building, numerous toolbox bays and workstations, plus the assortment of trophies in the lobby -- including a Crosley jukebox from one of Keselowski's multiple victories at Kentucky Speedway . "A lot of thought went into it, and I think it was just off the many shops that Brad has experienced throughout his career," Hemric said, noting Roger Penske -- Keselowski's Sprint Cup team owner -- and his strong influence. "Being a huge part in the Penske building over there and seeing how Roger operated, I think that was a big role in how this place was assembled. If you're going to structure yourself off anybody, Roger's probably not a bad guy. To see all that's gone into this point, it's really, really interesting to see how many resources these guys have." Those resources are a luxury for Kendrick's charges, who now have room to work on multiple trucks at once. The veteran crew chief also has an asset in Keselowski's leadership, which he says is hands-on without veering into micromanagement. The mood Monday morning at the shop was a vibrant one, with a slight spring in the step potentially provided by the boss man's Sprint Cup victory the previous day at Las Vegas Motor Speedway . Kendrick, however, said that the buoyance comes naturally -- and daily -- working in such a pristine environment. "Just having a nice facility like this at this level has encouraged the guys to be just better," Kendrick said. "I mean, when you walk into this place and work here day in and day out, it just boosts morale. Guys want to be better, look better, want to perform better. It just raises it to the next level. ... It'll be many years to come before somebody tops this." Great expectations The proverbial next level is something Hemric is striving for on-track as well. He made strides with NTS Motorsports in his rookie season last year, logging top-10 finishes in the majority of the 23 races and claiming seventh place in the final driver standings. The results, however, were uneven, with each modest string of pleasantness disrupted by a setback -- either mechanical or racing-related. "Everybody said it was character-building and we had a lot of that," Hemric says now. "We definitely experienced some pretty good highs and some pretty low lows. I felt like at the end of the day, the biggest thing that I was taught last year was how to excel in those opportunities where you don't have the best truck that day and how to make the most out of a rough situation. "I found myself a couple of times thinking, 'Man, is this ever going to turn around?' You keep your head on your shoulders, position yourself on the restarts and next thing you know, you wind up with a good finish. I think all that stuff is really going to play a role as we get further into the season, we get closer to that Chase format and it's all going to matter." Last year's feeling of exasperation is one that Kendrick hopes Hemric can cleanse, helping lift his confidence in the season's early going. Putting winning trucks into his hands is a major step. It's the reason why Hemric wasn't delighted two weekends ago at Atlanta Motor Speedway , where he matched his career-best effort in the truck series with a fourth-place finish. The reaction came in part because he knew that his first trip to Victory Lane in a national-series event was well within reach. The attitude change, Kendrick said, should add fuel to Hemric's competitive drive. Now it's just a matter of scratching the win column. "We talked about that when we knew Daniel was coming here," Kendrick said of his initial conversations with Keselowski and other BKR managers. "I really think he could be the guy that when he gets his first win, I really feel like he's going to be the guy that'll roll off three out of five, or roll off three or four in a row. I really feel like he could be that kind of guy, but you've just got to get that first one. The first one is always the hardest." That first victory might be the hardest, but it also might be the most meaningful, providing Hemric another opportunity to have Keselowski greet him in Victory Lane under much different circumstances. "It's definitely a dream come true how it all comes full circle," Hemric said. "Now it's just a matter of making the most of it."
From The Vault: Tony takes Richmond International Raceway
Relive the 2002 Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond International Raceway where Tony Stewart ran away with the win. The win at RIR was Tony's third in only seven starts at the Virginia short track.
Double Numbers: Is the 11 or 22 the team to beat at Richmond International Raceway ?
Marty Snider and Chris Rice give you their NASCAR Fantasy Live picks for the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway .
Coming home: Wile prepares for new role as Daytona president
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Chip Wile has flown into the Daytona Beach, Florida, airport dozens of times during his nearly two decades in NASCAR, working in racing public relations or for Motor Racing Network or more recently as the president of Darlington Raceway . But NASCAR's most famous track -- Daytona International Speedway -- looked different to Wile this past weekend as he landed at the airport next door. It's home now. "The 'aha moment' for me was flying in from Talladega Sunday night and landing right alongside the race track," said Wile, who started his tenure as Daytona International Speedway president on Monday. "I've flown in 50 times over the past 15 years but it felt different this time. You fly in and look over and get excited because you're going to Daytona, but knowing I have a different role now here and this is now my home was the 'aha moment.' "I'm trying to take a deep breath and really appreciate this opportunity. This is a game-changer for me and for my family. I understand how important (Daytona) is and what it means to our sport, and I'm looking forward to the challenge." For sure, the 36-year-old Wile knows a little something about challenges. For the past three years he has led the iconic Darlington Raceway into a modern era, ironically, by celebrating its storied past. Under his leadership, the "throwback" theme he created for Darlington's Southern 500 has been something praised and celebrated by fans, media and drivers alike. One of the most historic weekends of competition has also positioned itself as one of the most popular weekends in NASCAR -- a feat not lost by those International Speedway Corporation executives who tabbed Wile to run the facility as Joie Chitwood III takes a new role as ISC's Chief Operating Officer. Chitwood oversaw the recently completed $400 million Daytona Rising project that has propelled the speedway into one of sport's greatest modern facilities. And now Wile will shepherd the project and expand the opportunities. The Darlington experience is all fantastic background for Wile, who follows Chitwood in a place Chitwood aptly steered into the top level of innovation. "When I got the opportunity to go work at Darlington, I knew how important Darlington was to NASCAR and what it meant to lead that team," Wile said. "The obligation to hold people to a high standard because of its history and nostalgia, and certainly over the past three years, we've been able to do that with the community. Making sure we hold the Bojangles' Southern 500 to a high standard and make it a unique event with the throwback. So, that certainly is something I'm really proud of. "This is an even more prestigious brand. The Daytona 500 , I would argue, is the most prestigious brand in our sport and we have to hold it to a higher standard. And this race track, and what it means to our community and our sport, transcends really anything else that is out there." That race in particular has always held a special place in Wile's heart. He remembers working at Penske Racing, where he was reminded of the iconic Daytona track on a near daily basis. "I remember Roger Penske, who I worked for, he won 16 Indy 500s, but when you walk into his shop, the first trophy you see is that 50th running of the Daytona 500 trophy," Wile recalled. "And he's won just about everything you can win, but I'd argue that was, at the time, the biggest win in his motorsports career." Wile's extensive background working in so many facets of the sport will undoubtedly be useful for him. He spent almost a decade working with teams such as Bill Davis Racing and Penske Racing before joining ISC as director of business development with its radio network, MRN. He served as a liaison between the network and the tracks in that role before moving to Darlington. All of that is why he was the logical choice for the Daytona position and why he is confident and excited in leading the charge. "I think certainly what I bring is relationships," Wile said. "The only jobs I've ever had are in this sport. And I've been fortunate over the years. People have taken a vested interest in me and helped me be successful. I feel like I have relationships in the garage and with people that are true. I value those relationships and those are the reasons I'm getting the opportunity to come here and lead this team in Daytona. "Understanding how NASCAR works and how the race teams operate and certainly on the media side with my short time with MRN, I know what makes them tick, how their business runs and now, obviously, on the race track side. "It does give you a little bit of perspective on how you view things and look at things. I think that has helped me be successful so far. And certainly the relationships, in my opinion, are the most important thing in the sport and I will continue to lean on those."
Brandon Jones joins GMS Racing
17-year-old will compete in two more 2014 Camping World Truck Series races Brandon Jones is joining GMS Racing to run two more NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races this season. Jones will pilot the No. 33 Chevrolet Silverado in the Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway on Oct. 25 as well as the Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix International Raceway on Nov. 7. Shane Huffman will serve as crew chief. "I couldn't be more excited to continue our NCWTS efforts this season with GMS Racing at Martinsville and Phoenix ," Jones said in a release. "The opportunity to start our relationship at a familiar track like Martinsville is a great benefit and I'm incredibly excited to tackle Phoenix for the first time. GMS Racing has had impressive performances this year and I can't wait to get back on track working with Shane Huffman and the entire organization." Jones has made six previous Camping World Truck Series starts in his career, including three this year, all for Turner Scott Motorsports. His best finish was a fourth-place result at Dover this past spring. Jones has made two previous starts at Martinsville and has an average finish of 17.0 at the track. The 17-year-old Atlanta native competed full-time in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East circuit this season and finished fourth in the final standings. He won his first K&N Pro Series East race at Iowa Speedway in August. Huffman served as the crew chief for most of his races on that circuit and has also been the crew chief for all three of Jones' starts this season in the Truck Series. "Everyone at GMS Racing is thrilled to welcome Brandon into the fold of the No. 33 Chevrolet Silverado," Nic Moncher, the general manager of GMS Racing, said in a team release. "He has shown a great deal of talent this season across every series he has competed in, and we're both looking forward to great performances together at both Martinsville and Phoenix . Brandon has all the tools you like to see in a young driver and he will be a great asset to our Truck Series program." This season, GMS Racing has fielded a full-time truck for Joey Coulter (No. 21), while Max Gresham and Spencer Gallagher have split time in the No. 23 entry. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Busch, Edwards appear to have put Richmond issue in past
VOTE: Edwards' last lap move at Richmond -- clean or dirty? Reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Kyle Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Carl Edwards appear to have buried the hatchet after the finish of the Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway two weekends ago. To refesh your memory, Edwards won his second straight race for JGR on April 24, doing so with a last-lap bump-and-run on Busch, who was seeking his third victory in four Cup events. As of this past weekend at Talladega Superspeedway , the pair still had yet to talk to try to resolve any tension. But on Wednesday morning, Busch tweeted a photo of the pair holding a signed award with M&Ms -- one of Busch's sponsors -- on it and the language, "Congratulations on your win," and the Toyota Owners 400 race logo. pic.twitter.com/rGgozmHOmp — Kyle Busch (@KyleBusch) May 4, 2016
Allmendinger's Darlington look to honor 1975 Rookie of the Year
RELATED: Buy Darlington tickets " '16 throwback schemes " SHOP: 'Dinger gear AJ Allmendinger ’s Darlington throwback paint scheme will honor Kansas native Bruce Hill's 1970s-era No. 47 with a Kroger/Kingsford red, white and blue theme, JTG Daugherty Racing announced today. Allmendinger will drive the car in the Bojangles' Southern 500 on Sept. 4 (6 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Allmendinger and Hill, the 1975 Cup series Rookie of the Year, will meet for the first time on Friday at Kansas Speedway . "It is an honor, quite honestly," Hill said in a release. "Being remembered for something is always an honor, especially as big as the sport has gotten." Hill made starts in NASCAR's premier series in eight seasons with his best coming in his rookie year, 1975. He earned three top fives and 11 top 10s on his way to finishing 16th in driver points. He continued racing in the then-Winston Cup series through 1981. Hill now lives in his hometown of Topeka, Kansas, where he raises show horses on a ranch. "I'm really looking forward to meeting Bruce on Friday," Allmendinger said in the release. "I think what Darlington Raceway does to recognize former NASCAR drivers and the heritage of the sport is unprecedented. It's a great way to celebrate our sport and the people who made it what it is today. It's pretty neat to see all the sponsors and teams really get into it."
NASCAR announces 2017 national series schedules
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 5, 2016) -- NASCAR today announced the 2017 schedules for its three national series, giving fans and stakeholders a significant head start in planning for next season’s thrilling slate. A credit to unprecedented industry collaboration, specifically the five-year sanctioning agreement between NASCAR and its tracks, the sanctioning body finalized its 2017 schedules months ahead of previous years’ release. The result: Three unique schedules featuring race tracks that have hosted record-setting races already this season, with the majority of the slate still remaining. A notable change in the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series schedule includes a date swap between a track that just hosted one of the most competitive races in its history, and one that will showcase the lower downforce competition package this coming weekend. Talladega Superspeedway, which last Sunday had the second-highest total of green flag passes for the lead ever recorded (213), will become the second race in the Round of 12 in 2017 (Oct. 15). Kansas Speedway will now become the third and final race in that round (Oct. 22). "Announcing the 2017 national series schedules this early in the season is another example of the collaborative spirit across the NASCAR industry," said Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. "It is an exciting time in NASCAR, with some of the most intriguing racing we’ve seen in years. With the 2017 schedule solidified, the industry can now concentrate on the remainder of this season, while planning for the future much earlier than in previous years." Texas Motor Speedway's spring Cup race shifts to Sunday (April 9), a move expected to produce great racing action like that seen after Richmond International Raceway switched to a Sunday race for the 2016 season. Other changes in the NASCAR Cup schedule include Dover International Speedway's spring date move to June 4, a week after the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (May 28). Michigan International Speedway's second race will return to its traditional early August slot, on Aug. 13. The NASCAR Cup Series 2017 schedule opens with The Great American Race, the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 26. The season culminates with the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 19. The NASCAR XFINITY Series will kick off at Daytona on Feb. 25, and crown its champion at Homestead on Saturday, November 18. Its schedule features four standalone events -- Iowa Speedway (July 29), Mid-Ohio (Aug. 12), Road America (Aug. 26) and Kentucky Speedway, the first event in the NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase (Sept. 23). For the second consecutive season, Iowa will host a NASCAR XFINITY Series-NASCAR Camping World Truck Series companion weekend on June 23-24. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series opens its season at Daytona on Feb. 24, and culminates at Homestead on Nov. 17. Five standalone races are included among the 2017 lineup: Texas Motor Speedway (June 9), Gateway Motorsports Park (June 17), Eldora Speedway (July 19), Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (Aug. 27) and Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Sept. 30). The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase once again begins at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (Sept. 23). All races will air on either the FOX or NBC family of networks, MRN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. See below for all three NASCAR national series schedules.