JR Motorsports driver scored first 21 Means 21 Pole Award there in 2014 LONG POND, Pa. -- Rewind the clock back to a year ago: Cole Custer had made two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts that resulted in two top-15 finishes. In his third race, the NASCAR Next product really turned heads at Gateway Motorsports Park, site of Saturday night's American Ethanol presents the Drivin' for Linemen 200 brought to you by Ameren (8:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM). Custer scored his first 21 Means 21 Pole Award for the event last year as well as his first top-10 finish (a sixth-place result) in a NASCAR national series event. "I'm really looking forward to it just because we were so fast there last year," Custer told NASCAR .com at Pocono Raceway , where he ran in the Pocono ARCA 200 last weekend. "I think we are going to bring a real great truck and we are going to have a lot of speed. We are really looking forward to that one. We have it circled on our calendar." The 17-year-old California native ran a nine-race slate last year with Haas Racing Development. That includes a victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last fall, where he led 148 of 175 laps en route to becoming the youngest winner in NASCAR national series history. This season, Custer is helping to build the foundation for the truck operation at JR Motorsports, the Dale Earnhardt Jr .-owned racing team. "It's such a great organization," he said. "It's one of the top ones in NASCAR . It definitely helps us on the truck side trying to bring fast race cars to the track." Gateway will be the third of 10 planned races Custer will run for JRM this season, and part of a stretch that sees him run three races (Dover, Gateway and Iowa) in four weeks. Custer is not of age to run at tracks under 1.25-miles per the NASCAR rulebook. "You got to be good in (Turn) 1," Custer said of what he considers a key at Gateway. "You got to get your car turning. You are probably not going to be able to be perfect in both ends because the corners are different. Just being able to turn through Turn 1 and then being a little on the loose side in Turns 3 and 4. It's different a tricky track." To fill the gaps in his schedule, Custer is running a handful of ARCA events as well as some NASCAR K&N Pro Series races this summer. Moving between different series and cars is a bit of an adjustment for the young driver. "It's a little bit difficult," Custer said. "It usually takes you about half a practice session or so to get used to the different cars. Once you get used to it, it's just like anything else with driving. I think it makes you a better driver just from getting different feels and everything." That track time in other series could pay off big for Custer when the Truck Series hits Iowa for his fourth start of the season on June 19 for the American Ethanol 200 (8:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM). Custer finished eighth in the Truck Series race there last year. "I'm looking forward to Iowa, too, just because I won there in the past (2013) in the K&N Pro Series. I really like that track and I feel like we were pretty good there last year. We weren't dominant, but I feel like we got a real good package this year and I think we are going to be strong there." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Four-time champion makes announcement on FOX Sports 1 RELATED: Full coverage of Gordon's final full-time season, announcement CONCORD, N.C. – When Jeff Gordon steps out of the race car and into the television booth next season, he'll still be competing. Only this time it could be with himself instead of 42 other NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers. The four-time series champion and Hendrick Motorsports driver will be an integral part of the FOX NASCAR broadcast team full time next season as a race analyst. Gordon made the announcement Thursday on FOX Sports 1's "Race Hub" prior to LiftMaster Pole Night at Charlotte Motor Speedway . Gordon will join fellow analyst Darrell Waltrip and play-by-play announcer Mike Joy when FOX opens the 2016 season with the coverage of SpeedWeeks from Daytona International Speedway . He will help call races, practices and qualifying sessions for the network. Former crew chief Larry McReynolds, who currently works alongside Joy and Waltrip, will move to the on-site studio, known as the Hollywood Hotel, where he will be paired with Chris Myers and Michael Waltrip . "I will tell you that being up in the booth, there was an adrenalin rush … it's exciting," Gordon said after qualifying 18th for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 (FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR , 6 p.m.). "I enjoyed it. The competition might be with myself trying to always improve and be better, do the best that I can and push myself." According to a FOX release, Gordon has agreed to a multi-year contract that begins this season. He will serve as the in-race reporter during select Sprint Cup Series events for the remainder of the '15 season. He is one of four drivers so far to join FOX broadcasters in the booth for XFINITY Series races this season. Gordon's schedule saw him in the booth at Texas, Bristol and Talladega, where he joined host Adam Alexander and Michael Waltrip . "I was very nervous the first race in Texas and I was not feeling well; I was under the weather unfortunately," Gordon said. "That one I was more nervous. The next one (at Bristol) I was a little more comfortable and Talladega, I got to enjoy it. The racing was fun to talk about, and I thought the experience was enjoyable and I was a little more relaxed. I look forward to gaining that confidence and being … more relaxed." SHOP: Gordon gear Gordon will end a stellar driving career at the season’s end, having won premier series championships in 1995, '97-98 and '01. His 92 career victories are tops among active drivers and third on the series' all-time list, trailing only NASCAR Hall of Fame members Richard Petty (200) and David Pearson (105). In addition to his television work, he is expected to continue to contribute to Hendrick Motorsports , where he has spent his entire Sprint Cup career. "I had already made the decision that I was going to step away (from competing full-time) because I have some good options," Gordon, 43, said, "my role at Hendrick Motorsports , my role with (sponsor) Axalta, not to mention some other partners that have interest. "… I didn't know if it was going to happen to be honest. It was going back and forth for a while whether it was going to happen. Eventually all the right things came together." The relationship with Hendrick won't be an issue, he said, but added, "it's going to be something that I'm going to have to respect. "It's something I would never want to overstep the boundaries. I'm going to be conscious of it. But I also feel like it's going to help me stay current and up to speed on the knowledge of what is going on. As long as I'm not sharing too many details, I think just speaking in general, it's going to be a huge advantage for me to have that tie … to be able to bring some of that to the booth." Erik Shanks, FOX Sports President, COO and Executive Producer, called Gordon "not only a champion but an icon of a racing generation. "We are thrilled he has chosen to become a part of the FOX family and pair his experience with Darrell. "Each is credited with helping elevate NASCAR to the popularity it attained during in his respective era, and alongside Mike Joy, this duo will treat fans to unmatched insights each and every week." Gordon’s familiar red No. 24 Chevrolet will be driven by 2014 XFINITY Series champion Chase Elliott beginning next season. FOX Sports is in the first year of a new, 10-year media rights agreement that consists of coverage of each season's first 16 Sprint Cup Series points races as well as the first 14 XFINITY Series events and all Camping World Truck Series races. NBC holds the rights to the season's final 20 Sprint Cup events. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Learn how to get live streaming of NASCAR races on NBC Sports with the NBC Live Extra app.
O'Donnell: Potential for youth and diversity initiatives to merge RELATED: NASCAR Next class unveiled " More on NASCAR Next GALLERY: Meet the NASCAR Next Class of 2015 Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR's Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer, was among the sanctioning body's presenters during Tuesday's debut of the NASCAR Next 2015-16 roster of young drivers. If the process for identifying new up-and-comers for driving opportunities continues to grow, the group's composition could evolve in the years ahead. The newest NASCAR Next class of 12 drivers -- five returning members and seven first-time participants -- made their grand introduction Tuesday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Two members -- Nicole Behar and Ruben Garcia Jr. -- were also participants in last fall's NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine, a proving ground for multicultural drivers and women hoping to make their mark in the sport. The NASCAR Next campaign is in its fifth season; the D4D initiative has been in effect since 2004. O'Donnell said each program has momentum, but that there is potential for a merged program in the future that combines the best of both. "I think it's part and parcel," O'Donnell said. "I think eventually the hope is that it could grow just to one, but I think the D4D program is still running strong, still provides us with an opportunity those who may have not been in a car at 4 and 5 years old, didn't have that opportunity and then were able to do that through the Rev Racing program, so we've seen some success and we're still seeing that. "I think this is an opportunity to recognize some drivers who are in the Late Models and have had some success and continue to grow and we can work with them as well. So, two successful programs, but eventually we'd love to see it just be one." Since the Next program began under the moniker of NASCAR's Next 9 in 2011, several notable alumni -- Chase Elliott , Kyle Larson , Darrell Wallace Jr . and Alex Bowman among them -- have found regular rides in one of the three NASCAR national series. O'Donnell said the movement to identify and promote the new wave of stock-car driving talent has been a collaborative effort, drawing on the recommendations of former drivers, track owners and other racing officials. Though O'Donnell hinted at the program's evolution, five years later the objective for NASCAR Next remains the same. "The goal of it is to graduate a driver from the touring to the national series level," O'Donnell said. "As we've seen, that's always been a struggle of getting names out there about their talent. They're so difficult in this day and age, so I think this has been a help to just get some drivers who may not have been recognized that, hey, let's get an owner to take look at a driver and advance them to the next level as well." Among other topics O'Donnell fielded Tuesday in an open Q&A with reporters: -- On the criticisms lobbed by defending series champion Kevin Harvick last weekend, stating that the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule was "stagnant" : "We're happy with the schedule we have. We certainly look at what's available to us, but the scheduled that we have in place, I think that the tracks are doing a tremendous job of helping to promote the sport. Talladega was a great success for us this weekend, and we'll roll into Kansas and Charlotte. We certainly have dialogue with Kevin and everyone's got an opinion on the schedule, but we're happy with where we're at right now." -- On why the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race won't be run as a high-profile test of next year's rules package: "I think we're still developing what the 2016 package could be. It could very well be the 2015 package, so to go down a path that we felt potentially needed testing, we didn't think was the right thing to do, and put essentially a test out there for a big race on our schedule. So we elected to stay where we're at and continue to monitor the racing under this package right now." -- O'Donnell also indicated that NASCAR competition officials are targeting August 1 as a deadline for settling on a 2016 rules package. He also said that he expects national series schedules to be released on a similar time frame to last year as well.
Kyle Busch earns his first win of 2015 in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway and is one step closer to making the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
NASCAR .com correspondent Dylan Kwasniewski takes you behind the scenes with the new NASCAR Next class.
The 12 members of the 2015-2016 NASCAR Next class are announced at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
New NASCAR Next class already making mark on track RELATED: NASCAR's future is bright and young " Future of youth, diversity initiatives GALLERY: Meet the NASCAR Next Class of 2015 " More about NASCAR Next DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 5, 2015) -- Five of the six NASCAR K&N Pro Series race winners in 2015 are 21 years old or younger. The championship points leaders in both the East and West are 17 and 16, respectively. And a 17-year-old just became the highest-finishing female in the 61-year history of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. It is fitting that as fans celebrate Jeff Gordon ’s final year of competition, the ranks of NASCAR are filled with young drivers battling to one day fill that void. And on Tuesday, in a building that honors the sport’s history, NASCAR introduced some of those potential future stars of the sport. During a ceremony at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina, 12 drivers were formally announced as the newest NASCAR Next class, a group of up-and-coming talent that joins the industry program aimed at spotlighting NASCAR ’s emerging stars. "The NASCAR Next initiative spotlights the future of NASCAR , a collection of promising young talent who have shown the potential to one day reach the highest level of our sport," said Jill Gregory, NASCAR senior vice president for Industry Services. "Alumni – and current members – of the NASCAR Next program are achieving success at the national series level, and we are confident that this class will build upon that foundation of excellence for many seasons to come." Now in its fifth season, the career résumé of NASCAR Next alumni is impressive, highlighted by Chase Elliott ’s 2014 NASCAR XFINITY Series championship, Kyle Larson ’s 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award, and Cole Custer ’s September 2014 win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, making him the youngest winner in NASCAR national series history. Of the 28 drivers previously selected for the program, 21 have raced in one of NASCAR ’s three national series ( NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series), and 11 are competing full-time there in 2015. The team was selected through an evaluation process that included input from industry executives and veteran racers. Drivers must be between the ages of 15-25, have tangible and expressed goals in eventual competition in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and demonstrate the potential to realize that goal. Each driver in NASCAR Next must be actively competing in a NASCAR touring or weekly series – NASCAR K&N Pro Series East or West, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1, NASCAR Mexico Series, NASCAR Whelen Euro Series or NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competitors also are eligible provided they are not slated to run a full season in their respective series. The NASCAR Next members for 2015-16 are: • Rico Abreu (23, Rutherford, Calif., Twitter: @Rico_Abreu ) – A 2014 USAC national champion and winner of the 2015 Chili Bowl, he has two top-10 finishes in three K&N Pro Series East starts, his first season racing in stock cars. • Nicole Behar (17, Otis Orchards, Wash., @NicoleBehar33 ) – Tied the series record for highest finish by a female driver in just her fifth K&N West start with her second place mark at Irwindale Event Center, and has top-10 finishes in four of six West starts. • Kyle Benjamin (17, Easley, S.C., @kylebenjamin71 ) – This Roush Fenway Racing developmental driver earned his first K&N Pro Series win at Bristol Motor Speedway , and is the youngest race winner in ARCA history. • James Bickford (17, Napa, Calif., @Bickford_James ) – The 2014 K&N West Sunoco Rookie of the Year earned his first win at State Line Speedway last season and finished fifth in the season championship. • William Byron (17, Charlotte, N.C., @WilliamByron ) – With a win at Greenville Pickens Speedway and three top 10 finishes, he sits atop the K&N Pro East season championship standings. • Cole Custer (17, Ladera Ranch, Calif., @colecuster00 ) – He holds the records for youngest pole award and race winner in both the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR ’s touring series, and led late in the Truck race at Martinsville Speedway earlier this season. • Ruben Garcia Jr. (19, Mexico City, Mex., @rubengarcia4 ) – The runner up in last season’s NASCAR Mexico Series season championship, he had one win and 10 top-10 finishes there while also competing in three NASCAR XFINITY Series races. • Austin Hill (21, Winston, Ga., @_AustinHill ) – Had three consecutive K&N East wins, in the final two races in 2014 and the 2015 season opener at New Smyrna Speedway where he captured his first pole award and led every lap. • Jesse Little (18, Sherrill’s Ford, N.C., @jesselittle97 ) – Had a win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway , four top-five and 10 top-10 finishes in 2014 to finish fourth in the season standings. Won the pole at Bristol Motor Speedway in his 2015 K&N East debut. • Dylan Lupton (21, Wilton, Calif., @LuptonDylan ) – Was the 2014 K&N West championship runner up with a win at Kern County Speedway and registered 14 top-10 finishes; made his NASCAR XFINITY Series debut at Phoenix International Raceway in March. • John Hunter Nemechek (17, Mooresville, N.C., @JHNemechek ) – Earned six top-10 finishes in 10 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts in 2014, and won the prestigious Snowball Derby Late Model race at Five Flags Speedway in December. • Dalton Sargeant (17, Boca Raton, Fla., @DaltonSargeant ) – Has a win at Kern County Raceway Park in the West this season, and four top-five finishes in five combined East and West races.
See what's coming this week to NASCAR .com Here's what you'll see on NASCAR .com this week: MONDAY: Continued coverage of Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s Talladega win, plus reaction from Jeff Gordon after another speeding penalty ruined his day. And on "Star Wars Day" @nascarcasm combines the iconic film franchise with NASCAR . TUESDAY: Expect Power Rankings presented by John Deere to get another shakeup this week -- how high will Junior rise? Plus, check out Dale Jr.'s imaginary Facebook page created by @nascarcasm, as well as fake texts between Junior and Tony Stewart following their Richmond run-in. Senior writer Kenny Bruce will report from Charlotte at an event with Jimmie Johnson , Chad Knaus, Rusty Wallace and Michael Waltrip . WEDNESDAY: Check out which paint schemes will be on display at Kansas Speedway . Senior writer Kenny Bruce will be at the NASCAR R&D Center for Richard Childress Racing 's final appeal. THURSDAY: In advance of the SpongeBob SquarePants 400, we take a look at what would happen if SpongeBob and NASCAR collided. Senior writer Holly Cain, who has covered both Dale Earnhardt Jr . and his father, has a column on Sunday's remarkable win. And to get you ready for Kansas, Driver Reports has a full breakdown on how the 16 drivers currently in the Chase Grid do at that track. FRIDAY: Get all the on-track action slated for Kansas throughout the day and evening, including a Truck Series race under the lights. We'll also catch you up on eight tweets you might have missed. Also coming this week: On Tuesday, Zack Albert will be on hand when the new NASCAR Next class is announced. Holly Cain writes about Carl Edwards ' frustrating Talladega finish. ... Check out a photo gallery Wednesday of NASCAR drivers and their mothers, in advance of Mother's Day. ... We'll preview Erik Jones first career Sprint Cup start, and look back on Joey Gase 's career-best XFINITY Series finish.
Youngest national series winner will be age-eligible to run full time next season