Suarez's ascent latest success for NASCAR's development programs
RELATED: Full coverage of JGR changes " What Suarez, Edwards said HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. -- Less than two months after becoming the first foreign-born driver to win a NASCAR national title, Daniel Suarez can add another accomplishment to his fast-growing resume. The 25-year-old will become the first Mexican-born competitor to race full-time in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series , the sanctioning body's top level, when he gets on track next month at Daytona International Speedway for Joe Gibbs Racing . Suarez was officially introduced Jan. 11 as the driver of the organization's No. 19 Toyota for the 2017 season. He replaces veteran Carl Edwards , who is stepping down from full-time competition to pursue other interests. The Monterrey, Mexico native is a product of two of NASCAR's base programs aimed at finding and cultivating talent while providing opportunities for advancement. While competing in the NASCAR Mexico Series (2011-2014), Suarez was tabbed for NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program in 2013-14, which spotlights minority as well as female competitors. He was also a member of the NASCAR Next Class -- aimed at preparing youngsters for potential careers in NASCAR -- from '11-13. RELATED: More about NASCAR Next " Drive for Diversity "We started this dream 10 years ago with NASCAR , and right now to be in this position, to be in this opportunity is just something amazing for me and for everyone that has been helping me, of course," Suarez said. Suarez was a 10-time winner in the NASCAR Mexico Series, and won three times in the K&N Pro Series East as he began to make the transition from Mexico to the U.S., making his national series debut in 2014. By 2015, JGR signed him to full-time status in the NASCAR XFINITY Series and he was running a partial slate in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series . He responded by winning three times in 2016 and capturing the XFINITY title. "We're very proud that it validates our diversity plan in a significant way," NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said the morning after Suarez captured the title at Homestead-Miami Speedway . "All kinds of conversations on what we’ve said through the years is these things take time to find the kind of talent that can actually compete at a high level on the biggest stages, and he's done that." Suarez joins a growing list of drivers that have come up through the NASCAR Next and/or Drive for Diversity programs to reach its top level. Among them: Kyle Larson ( Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates) became the first D4D and NASCAR Next graduate to win a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race this past season. NASCAR Next grad Chase Elliott ( Hendrick Motorsports ) qualified for the series’ Chase in 2016 and captured Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors. This season, former JGR teammate and NASCAR Next grad Erik Jones will race fulltime in the Monster Energy Cup Series for Furniture Row Racing . RELATED: Driver moves, other changes for 2017 On the Drive For Diversity front, crew chief Dave Rogers understands what a victory by Suarez at the top level would mean. "We're going to go to every race, we're not going to have expectations to win, but we're going to go to the track knowing that we can if we do everything right and the right situations come up, we can put ourselves in Victory Lane," Suarez’s crew chief said. "The neat thing about this is history. Very seldom in life do you get to sit down and say 'Hey, I'm part of history right now' … This is a living, historic event. This is a really big deal. So every opportunity is an opportunity for history." Suarez became the eighth foreign-born race winner in NASCAR ’s national series with his victory this past June at Michigan international Speedway. RELATED: Relive Suarez's first win " Recap the history-making title season He will have a veteran crew and a talented group of teammates, Kyle Busch , Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin , at his disposal. All that remains for him is to slide behind the wheel and fire the engine. "When you are with the right team, you know that the opportunity will come, and it will come at the right time," Suarez said. That time, it seems, is now. &amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;gt;
Driver lineup set for NASCAR Fan Appreciation Day
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- In what has become a much-anticipated season kick-off event, NASCAR will offer FREE admission to the NASCAR Hall of Fame as part of NASCAR Fan Appreciation Day. That's just one of the many exciting offerings during the day-long celebration of NASCAR's passionate fans, scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 21 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NASCAR stars past and present will participate in autograph and Q&A sessions throughout the day, in addition to free access to the Hall. Fans will be admitted into the Hall on a first-come, first-served basis in lieu of needing a ticket. Doors open at 8 a.m. However, tickets to the below autograph sessions, featuring stars from all three NASCAR national series, must be secured in advance. Tickets for these autograph sessions will be available for free on NASCARHall.com starting at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday, Jan. 7. Each fan can secure up to two tickets for one of the seven autograph sessions (one ticket for an individual or two tickets for an individual and their guest). Session 1 (9:30 a.m. ET): Richard Childress, Austin Dillon , Ty Dillon Session 2 (10:30 a.m. ET): Aric Almirola , Ryan Reed , Timothy Peters Session 3 (11:30 a.m. ET): Kasey Kahne , Daniel Suarez , John Hunter Nemechek Session 4 (12:30 p.m. ET): Martin Truex Jr., Brandon Jones , Noah Gragson Session 5 (2 p.m. ET): Chase Elliott , Blake Koch , Kaz Grala Session 6 (3 p.m. ET): David Ragan , Brennan Poole , Christopher Bell Session 7 (4 p.m. ET): Paul Menard , Brendan Gaughan , Johnny Sauter Q&A sessions with all of the above drivers will begin 30 minutes prior to their autograph session and are open to all guests. In addition, members of the NASCAR Next program and NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2017 inductees Rick Hendrick and Mark Martin will participate in Q&As for all those in attendance. NASCAR Fan Appreciation Day will follow the previous evening's NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2017 Induction Ceremony on Jan. 20 (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN). As in previous years, current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series stars will help present each inductee. Scheduled to present at this year's induction ceremony are seven-time premier series champion Jimmie Johnson , Matt Kenseth , Kevin Harvick , Brad Keselowski , Austin Dillon and Ty Dillon . For tickets to the Induction Ceremony, visit nascarhall.com/inductees/induction-ceremony .
JR Motorsports ramps up with 2017 expansion
RELATED: Driver Tracker " On the move: Changes in store for 2017 The encore for an organization that placed both of its full-time drivers into the Championship 4 field in the inaugural NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase last year has the chance to be even greater. JR Motorsports has that unique possibility, an opportunity granted by not sitting still. Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier return to the fold after prosperous debut years with the team, but that's where the offseason status quo ends. JRM plans a full-court press for the upcoming XFINITY season, expanding from two to four full-time drivers in an all-out push to bring home the championship it barely missed out on in 2017. "To have that opportunity to go up against three teammates, to see the growth in our shop, to see the growth in our teams, it's really, really fun to watch," Allgaier said. "I feel like if you came back here next year and said we'd have four cars from JR Motorsports in the final four, it wouldn't surprise me at all." A four-car sweep for the Homestead-Miami finale in November would mean stellar introductions by the two newest faces in the JRM stable: up-and-coming teenager William Byron, a NASCAR Next alum, and 30-year-old vet Michael Annett , back in XFINITY after a three-year stint in NASCAR's top division. The addition of Byron, a 19-year-old prospect in the Hendrick Motorsports system, actually counts as a reunion. The Liberty University student was a former driver for JRM's Late Model program on the weekly and touring level. His teammates have already seen what he can do in top-level equipment. Byron won seven times in his rookie NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season, with only a crucial engine failure in 2016's penultimate race keeping him from the championship fight. It's the reason Sadler has touted him as "a star of the future" and why Allgaier echoed the thought, calling Byron "an absolute class act and an amazing talent." Kelley Earnhardt Miller -- who co-owns JRM with her brother, Dale Earnhardt Jr . -- spoke with tones of regret in describing how Byron got away in late 2015, snapped up by Kyle Busch Motorsports and seemingly earmarked for an upward career arc in the Toyota pipeline. That changed last August when team owner Rick Hendrick brought him back into the Chevrolet camp, cognizant of the creeping advancement in age of his Monster Energy Cup Series roster. "For that to all come back full circle, we're real excited about it," Earnhardt Miller told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio last month. "He's just a great kid and a good family, and his story is just so cool -- doing the computer racing [on iRacing] and then telling his dad he wants to race and then not racing until he was 15. It's just a good story. But Mr. Hendrick deserves the credit there, trying to look at his next moves because he's going to have some drivers that are on the retirement horizon in the next several years, so smart move for him to make all that happen." Said Byron: "I just remember their ultimate goal for me when I started racing Late Models was so I could race an XFINITY car there. In a weird way, I got back to that and it's going to be really cool to return next year." To accommodate the escalated XFINITY Series growth, which Earnhardt Miller said has maxed out the team's resources, JR Motorsports has closed its truck series operation. Cole Custer , who drove the JRM No. 00 truck the last two seasons, has since moved on to Stewart-Haas Racing 's XFINITY program. As in past years, JR Motorsports plans to run an extra XFINITY entry in select races with Monster Energy NASCAR Cup drivers Earnhardt and Kasey Kahne behind the wheel for two races each. But at the heart of its growth are the core four XFINITY regulars, a direction chosen in light of new driver participation guidelines that go into effect in 2017. The continuity will keep JRM from scrambling to shuffle its roster once the Chase playoff begins and the limits on Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers moonlighting in the XFINITY ranks become more stringent. But the organization will still need to make inroads against stout competition, especially Joe Gibbs Racing , which won 19 of the 33 XFINITY races last season and took the other two spots in the four-driver championship round. Reminded of the heady assignment a day after last season's finale, Allgaier was unwavering. "Even with the Gibbs guys," Allgaier said. "I don't know, I just feel like with the packages that we've seen of what's a possibility for the XFINITY Series next year, the work that we're doing at the shop and the cars and just all the things that we've been working on, I really think next year's an opportunity for us at JR Motorsports."
NASCAR Nation reacts to Carl Edwards' surprise move
Carl Edwards shocked the NASCAR world on Wednesday, announcing he'd be stepping away from Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition, effective immediately. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver came up just short of a title at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November, so it was a surprise to see the 37-year-old walk away in his prime. NASCAR Nation was equally shocked, but wished Edwards well in his future endeavors. Their reaction: Really happy for Carl Edwards . One of the fastest guys you'll ever race. Great to see him doing what he wants after an incredible career. — Kasey Kahne (@kaseykahne) January 11, 2017 Carl has always been one of the most fair and hard racing drivers. I've learned as much from his character on the track as off. # NASCAR — Joey Logano (@joeylogano) January 11, 2017 Shocked to hear the news on Carl Edwards retirement. Class act and he was always entertaining with his back flips after wins — William Byron (@WilliamByron) January 10, 2017 Wow, blown away by the news of #carledwards retiring from racing and @Daniel_SuarezG to replace him. Congrats to Carl for an amazing career — Blake Koch (@BlakeKochRacing) January 10, 2017 His career and success speaks for itself. I always just admired how bad he wanted it. Congrats on a great career, Carl. — Josh Wise (@Josh_Wise) January 10, 2017 Interesting about Edwards. I can see him being lured back into the right situation. Although drivers retiring "early" doesn't surprise me. — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) January 10, 2017 pic.twitter.com/3WIsYweHwr — DeLana Harvick (@DeLanaHarvick) January 10, 2017 Blown away that this is happening... For sure. Jump on in if you'd like, the beer is cold. ☺️ #miller2crew https://t.co/ATNKORcNOn — Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) January 10, 2017 Really bummed to see Carl go..always had the best attitude in the garage of anyone I've ever seen. Gonna miss those backflips! — Sergio Peña (@SergPena) January 10, 2017 Sorry to see you leave, Carl! You will be missed. # NASCAR #ToyotaNation https://t.co/BNHjmnLZw0 — Furniture Row Racing (@FR78Racing) January 10, 2017 . @eddiegossage comments on FOXSports report that #CarlEdwards is leaving @JoeGibbsRacing to pursue other interests & won't compete in 2017. pic.twitter.com/sMT9M9BCUz — Texas Motor Speedway (@TXMotorSpeedway) January 10, 2017 Crazy news with Carl Edwards . Nobody saw this coming. Knowing Edwards, willing to bet he just wants to spend more time at home. Good for him — Marty Snider (@heymartysnider) January 10, 2017 We'll miss you, Carl! And the flips. https://t.co/8uRRWxeeng — MISpeedway (@MISpeedway) January 10, 2017 Are you flipping out about the news that #CarlEdwards is retiring? # NASCAR https://t.co/GUBxFdxsWu pic.twitter.com/jwDc4FJc8M — Auto Club Speedway (@ACSupdates) January 10, 2017 If sources are correct, it’s a sad day in # NASCAR . https://t.co/Nd9pdsPaWC — NH Motor Speedway (@NHMS) January 10, 2017 Carl is a true class act and a great competitor. As a fan he will be missed but as a friend I'm excited to see what's next . #CarlEdwards — Ben Kennedy (@BenKennedy33) January 11, 2017 Just watched Carl Edwards press conference. He is such a great guy and I can truly relate with how he got started in # nascar by persistence — Matthew DiBenedetto (@mattdracing) January 11, 2017
Watch the full Carl Edwards press conference as he steps away from NASCAR
Carl Edwards announced he is stepping away from NASCAR , before the start of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.
Carl Edwards steps away from racing; Daniel Suarez to wheel No. 19
RELATED: NASCAR Nation reacts to Edwards' news " Quotes from day HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. -- Carl Edwards gave three very detailed reasons why he is stepping away from NASCAR competition, only to circle back to the subject later and put it a bit more succinctly. "Life is short," Edwards told a room full of media, sponsor representatives and other assorted team and NASCAR officials Wednesday. "You've got to do what your gut tells you." And Edwards said his gut told him it was time to move on to something else. Edwards, 37, officially announced that he will not compete in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2017, calling a halt to a career that included 28 victories at NASCAR's top level, 10 Chase appearances and two second-place finishes in the series' championship points battle. The 2017 season was to be his third in the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, his team since joining JGR in 2015 after an 11-year career at Roush Fenway Racing . Instead, it will be 2016 NASCAR XFINITY Series driver Daniel Suarez who will be at the helm of the team's No. 19 entry. Suarez, the first Mexican-born driver to win a NASCAR national championship and a product of the sanctioning body's Drive for Diversity and NASCAR Next programs, will make his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut in the season-opening Daytona 500 , scheduled for Feb. 26 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). MORE: Recap Suarez's title year " Suarez returns home to Mexico a champion Edwards, wearing a dark suit and gray dress shirt as he walked on stage at the organization's headquarters here in Huntersville, didn't entirely rule out a return to racing in some form or fashion, explaining that "If I'm going to get back in a race car, which I'm not saying the R (retirement) word here … I'm calling Coach (Joe) Gibbs first. "There is no better race team. There is no faster car than a Toyota Camry. There's no better engine. There's no better crew chief than Dave Rogers. There's no better crew." Why step away when he is seemingly still at the top of his game? He finished fourth in the 2016 points standings and was in the title picture right up until a crash with 12 laps remaining took him out of contention in the series’ final race. WATCH: Edwards takes blame for Miami wreck " Edwards' 2016 in review
NASCAR Fan Appreciation Day returns to NASCAR Hall of Fame
NASCAR announced Wednesday that it will again host its annual NASCAR Fan Appreciation Day at the NASCAR Hall of Fame on January 21, 2017. Current national series drivers, NASCAR Hall of Famers and members of the NASCAR Next Class are expected to be in attendance for a day-long celebration that will include autograph sessions, opportunities for fan-driver photos and question-and-answer sessions. NASCAR Fan Appreciation Day will follow Friday night's NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN), where Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick, Mark Martin, Raymond Parks and Benny Parsons will be officially inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame as its Class of 2017. Also part of Saturday's festivities, the NASCAR Hall of Fame will unveil each inductees' granite markers in the gardens just outside the Hall's doors. Further information about autograph session schedules plus ticket/wristband information will be announced at a later date.
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."
Brian France: 'We want everybody to be a NASCAR fan'
LAS VEGAS -- NASCAR Chairman & CEO Brian France took the stage Friday at the Consumer Electronics Show to discuss how the sanctioning body is using technology to enhance the fan experience and engage with the next generation of fans. France was on the Sports Business Innovation panel with National Hockey League (NHL) Commissioner Gary Bettman and United States Olympic Committee (USOC) CEO Scott Blackmun. Here are the high points France delivered: On how diversity and globalization are critical to success: "We have a unique challenge because kids don't play our sport in the playground," France said. "We are the only ones in auto racing investing millions of dollars on combines for diversity drivers. These programs take time, but we just saw the benefit. We just had a Mexican driver, Daniel Suarez , win our second largest national series and that would not have happened without our diversity program. We don't do this because it is socially smart, which it is, but because that is where you find the best talent, and we want everybody to be a NASCAR fan." On how the Monster Energy partnership will help NASCAR reach new fans: "In our case aligning with the right sponsor is important. They help us tell our story and we count on their activation to take us to places and channels we would not normally be in. I am very happy about our new entitlement partner Monster Energy, they have incredible reach with Millennial customers and fans, auto racing is in their DNA and they have a smart digital approach." On fans' consumption habits: "The ways in which fans consume their favorite sports has changed in an unprecedented way, and that is the great challenge and opportunity that all leagues face," France said. "We want to be smart about how we attract (the younger generation) and balance that with our core fans and connect with all of them in ways that we have never seen before." On how technology can improve competition, safety and fan engagement: "We want to use technology and innovation to make our core product better," France said. "We all want to make our sport safer, and our games and races better. We are using technology to drive our sport in ways that we could not have even imagined only 10 years ago." On how technology, developed at the 61,000-square-foot NASCAR Research & Development Center in Concord, North Carolina, has helped: "The combination of innovation and technology can solve almost all problems," France said. "One of the challenges of outdoor sports is rain delays. We developed the Air Titan, which cut the time to dry the track. This was a huge thing for us to be able to retain our TV audience." On the introduction of the digital dash, which uses 16 customizable screens to monitor and record 24 different elements such as RPM, oil temperature and lap times: "This is the new frontier," France said. "We have an enormous amount of telemetry at our races between the drivers, crew chiefs and their strategy, and we are in the early stages of looking to deliver that data to fans in their seat, at home or through streaming."
HScott Motorsports won't compete in NASCAR in 2017
HScott Motorsports will not field teams for the 2017 season in NASCAR's premier series, according to a statement from the team. HSM fielded two full-time entries for 2015-16 in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series, most recently with drivers Clint Bowyer in the team's No. 15 Chevrolet and Michael Annett in the No. 46 Chevrolet. Bowyer ended the '16 season 27th in points; Annett placed 36th. "Over the past several months I considered a number of options for moving forward with the team," Scott said in the statement. "Regrettably there are no viable sponsor/driver options immediately available to allow the team to participate in 2017." Bowyer, who joined the team before the start of the '16 season, was scheduled to remain with the team for only one season before moving to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2017 to replace co-owner/driver Tony Stewart in that organization's No. 14 entry. Officials with Bowyer's sponsor, 5-hour Energy, announced earlier this year that the company would become the primary sponsor for Erik Jones and the No. 77 Furniture Row Racing Toyota entry in '17. Last month, it was announced that Annett and his sponsor, Pilot Flying J, would move to JR Motorsports to compete in the NASCAR XFINITY Series next season. "One thing I have learned about NASCAR is that it is a 'people business,'" Scott said. "I will be forever grateful to the men and women who worked tirelessly to make HScott Motorsports successful. ... "I love this sport and being part of it. I invested in NASCAR because I truly believe it represents the best racing competition in the world and the best people in all sports." The organization's charter for its No. 15 team has been sold to Premium Motorsports, according to HSM. The No. 46 charter, which was originally leased from Premium, was returned to Premium, which in turn has sold it to Furniture Row Racing . Charter teams are guaranteed starting positions in NASCAR premier series points races. HScott Motorsports came into being after Scott purchased the former Phoenix Racing team from owner James Finch. The organization was originally located in Spartanburg, S.C., but moved to Mooresville, N.C., before the start of the '16 season. "Looking back, I will always be especially proud of the unprecedented success of our NASCAR K&N Series teams, including four consecutive championships, and for the lifelong friendships that were forged over the last seven years," Scott said. Seven drivers combined for 189 starts at HSM; Bowyer managed three of the organization's four career top 10s this past season. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;