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The race to 30: Three drivers eye career mark
In December we analyzed three drivers who are closing in on 40 wins in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series . This week, we'll look at those close to a lesser milestone, but a milestone all the same -- 30 career wins. In premier series history 24 drivers have reached the 30-win plateau, from Richard Petty (200 wins) to fellow Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett (32). Of those 24 drivers, 18 have been eligible for the NASCAR Hall of Fame … and all 18 have been inducted, or in the case of Mark Martin, will be inducted. Jeff Gordon (93 wins) and Tony Stewart (49 wins) aren't eligible yet, but are widely considered locks to be enshrined as well. The other four drivers above 30 wins in NASCAR history are active and ineligible at this time. Here's a look at the three current drivers (it was four prior to Carl Edwards ' announcement last week) with 30 in their sights, as well as a full list of drivers with 30 or more wins in NASCAR's history.
Childress 'honored' to join the NASCAR Hall of Fame
On Friday, Richard Childress will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The legendary car owner won six championships with Dale Earnhardt behind the wheel.
Parks set the standard during NASCAR's early era
RELATED: Learn more about the Class of 2017 MORE: Photos from Voting Day DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- As one of early stock car racing's most successful car owners, it is appropriate that Raymond Parks captured the first two championships offered by the fledgling National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, an organization Parks helped form in 1947. Parks and his driver, Red Byron, won NASCAR's modified title in 1948. The pair, along with mechanic Red Vogt, became the sanctioning body's 1949 Strictly Stock champions -- the initial season of what is now the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The Dawson County, Georgia, native and his racing team were gone from NASCAR after 1955, winning just twice. But Parks, who died in 2010 at the age of 96, was seen as one of the sport's seminal figures and a visionary. "He set the standard. Mr. Parks brought the sport class," said NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty in a speedwaymedia.com interview shortly after Parks' death. "It took people like Mr. Parks to lay the foundation we're living off of. "And without him, we wouldn't have the history we have and we wouldn't be where we are today." Parks' contributions will be celebrated Jan. 20 in Charlotte, North Carolina, when he will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN). His fellow inductees among the Hall's Class of 2017 are Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick, Mark Martin and Benny Parsons. Parks was born in the north Georgia mountains in 1914, the eldest of his father's 16 children. By age 14, Parks had run away from home, landing in Atlanta where he worked at a still and later went into business for himself, bringing liquor from Dawsonville to Atlanta restaurants. He later branched out into legitimate enterprises supplying businesses with vending machines and jukeboxes. "He always kept his dignity and his kindness, always behaved more like one of Atlanta's most sophisticated businessmen, always was dapper in his finest hats and tailored suits," wrote Ed Hinton for ESPN.com in June 2010, shortly after Parks' passing. In the 1930s, Parks added stock car racing to his resume, fielding some of the region's fastest cars with a driver's roster that included Byron, Lloyd Seay, Roy Hall, Bob and Fonty Flock and NASCAR Hall of Famer Curtis Turner. He was instantly visible at the track, always dressed in wool suit, tie and fedora hat. A famous photograph shows Park changing tires on one of his cars during the inaugural Southern 500 at Darlington, South Carolina, still wearing his white shirt and tie. Parks served with the U.S . Army's 99th Infantry Division during World War II, fighting in the 1944-45 Battle of the Bulge in Belgium. Returning home, Parks resumed racing, frequently fielding two and three cars. His team won all five Daytona Beach beach-road course races in 1945 and 1946. "He came back with a vengeance, more determined to do and accomplish things he felt like he already should have done," said Ray Fox, a master mechanic, engine builder and NASCAR official. Parks was among some three dozen racing figures who gathered in December 1947 at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach to create NASCAR, under direction of fellow driver and race promoter William "Big Bill" France. Like France, Parks believed that a rough and tumble, frequently disorganized activity could become a nationally recognized sport like baseball or football. Parks financially supported the organization during its early years and boosted NASCAR's image apart from jalopy racing. "He kept his cars clean and neat like they do today," said NASCAR Hall of Famer Glen Wood in 2010. " The rest of us just kind of beat them out if they got banged up. He would have still been around today if he had kept on until the factories got into it. "He opened a lot of doors and windows to how to do things and taught a lot of racers how to do it better." Fellow NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Junior Johnson concurred. "Anywhere he showed up, he had the best cars," said Johnson in the ESPN.com obituary. "He's been an asset (to the sport) all his life to it." Parks left NASCAR to become a successful developer and owner of service stations and convenience stores. Parks was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2009. He also was part of the inaugural class inducted into the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame. &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;gt;
Edwards' decision caught Kenseth by surprise
RELATED: Full timeline of Edwards announcement Joe Gibbs Racing driver Matt Kenseth said he was "as surprised as anyone" when he learned that teammate Carl Edwards was stepping away from auto racing. Kenseth addressed the changing guard at Joe Gibbs Racing on Wednesday following a Goodyear tire test at Las Vegas. "I didn't find out until late Sunday night, and I was probably as shocked as anybody else was," Kenseth said. "I guess the more I think about, probably the less surprised I am knowing some of the conversations we've had in the past. He's a great teammate, and a great competitor. "You hate to see him go, but on the other hand, it's what he wants to do so I applaud him for doing it." RELATED: Three reasons for Edwards' decision Edwards revealed in Wednesday's press conference that Kenseth was his first competitor that he talked to about his decision. The pair have a deep history. The two were teammates at Roush Fenway Racing from 2004-2012, then again at Joe Gibbs Racing from 2015-2016. Kenseth also added that he thought Daniel Suarez would do a fine job filling the seat, but that the two hadn't spoken yet. The veteran will turn 45 in March, and he's coming off a two-win season and a near-trip to the Championship 4. As for his future? He's not planning on leaving any time soon. "I feel great," Kenseth said. "I enjoy what I'm doing, I love the race team I drive for and all the people there. I'm looking forward to the start of the season." Denny Hamlin , a fellow JGR teammate, has tweeted out the following as well: Thank you #carledwards for what you did for our team over the last 2 years, and welcome @Daniel_SuarezG to @JoeGibbsRacing cup team. — Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) January 12, 2017 &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;gt;
Circle Sport, The Motorsports Group join forces for 2017
MOORESVILLE, N.C. (January 6, 2017) -- Joe Falk of Circle Sport (CS) and Curtis Key, Sr., of The Motorsports Group (TMG) announced today that it will combine resources and participate in the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS). The team will be led by Circle Sport owner, Joe Falk, utilizing manufacturer Chevrolet and participate in the full 2017 season under the No. 33. The managing partnership of the two Chesapeake, Virginia business men merged to increase sponsorship opportunities and enhance their performance on the track. TMG owner Curtis Key has obtained a percentage of Circle Sport NASCAR Charter in the deal. The Charter will give the No. 33 guaranteed entries into all 2017 MENCS events. "It's great to join forces with Curtis Key, I've known him for a very long time and know we share the same feelings about racing," said Falk. CS/TMG will be housed out of the facility that has been the home of The Motorsports Group in Mooresville, North Carolina. In the off season, the facility and equipment has been upgraded including purchase of updated cars. Pat Tryson has been named Crew Chief of the team. Tryson, a veteran Cup Series crew chief will return to the TMG shop after heading up TMG in 2015 during its transition from the XFINITY Series into the Cup Series. "It's great to have Pat back with us, he was instrumental when we got started with our Cup program and we look forward to his insight in 2017," said Key. Gary Showalter, a tenured employee of TMG will serve as the team's general manager. Showalter started with TMG in the Camping World Truck Series in 2005 and was in TMG's climb from the Truck Series to the Cup level in 2015. He will oversee the day to day race facility duties as well as race team personnel. CS/TMG has yet to name a driver the No. 33 Chevrolet but officials are adamant to that an announcement will come in the next few weeks. Also, released today is the revamped logo combining the two teams' monikers. " The Circle Sport with TMG logo was necessary to rebrand the team into one entity rather than the using two logo's side by side," added Falk. The No. 33 Chevrolet SS will debut at Daytona International Speedway for Speedweeks in February. </p>
NASCAR industry to salute U.S . military with XFINITY Series tribute
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- In a show of appreciation for the United States Armed Forces, NASCAR XFINITY Series drivers will bear the names of active military units and installations on their race car windshields during Friday's Subway Firecracker 250 Powered By Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The 82nd Airborne Division, 1st Marine Raider Battalion and the USS New York (LPD-21) are among the military units and installations from all five branches that will replace the " XFINITY " header on NASCAR XFINITY Series cars. NASCAR: An American Salute ™ ( #NASCARSalutes ) is the industry's collective expression of reverence, respect and gratitude for those who have served and continue to defend the United States today. Last month, NASCAR together with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race teams honored 40 fallen service members with 600 Miles of Remembrance, a similar tribute during Memorial Day Weekend. RELATED: See all cars in 600 Miles of Remembrance "NASCAR's long-standing tradition of honoring the U.S . Armed Forces will never waver -- it is woven into the fabric of our sport," said Brent Dewar, chief operating officer, NASCAR. "We have a unique opportunity with the NASCAR XFINITY Series to pay tribute to the military units and bases integral to preserving our country's freedom." Several NASCAR XFINITY Series teams have personal or direct connections to the units displayed on their race cars. Driver Brendan Gaughan 's windshield will read "23RD STS," representing the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron ( U.S . Air Force) from Hurlburt Field in Fort Walton, Florida. Gaughan is one of a handful of civilians recognized as an Honorary Member of the Combat Control Association. Elliott Sadler 's windshield will be adorned with Fort Campbell to honor JR Motorsports employee Lee Langley, who served for six years at the Army base as an infantry team leader in the 101st Airborne Division. Ty Dillon and Brandon Jones both work with Hope 4 Warriors and will honor 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines and 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, respectively, from Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Justin Allgaier will honor the U.S . Air Force 469th Flight Training Squadron through a personal connection, as Allgaier is friends with Major Robert Harms, one of the pilots serving in that specific unit. The squadron operates out of Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas. "I always look forward to getting a chance to pay homage those who serve our country at Daytona each year," Allgaier said. "We're thankful to Comcast for providing the space on all of our cars to support these military heroes and to NASCAR for continuing their NASCAR Salutes program. This year there's a personal tie for me as I get to display the squadron of one of my friends. We love that we're able to support our military, but a sticker or event will never be enough to truly give them all the credit they deserve for what they do." The special windshield tribute is one of several military activities planned for the Independence Day Weekend races at Daytona International Speedway , culminating with Saturday's Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola (7:45 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The race track will again host and recognize three recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest award given to military service members, continuing a tradition dating back several years. The Medal of Honor recipients in attendance this weekend will include Staff Sergeant Ty Carter, Command Sergeant Major Gary Littrell and Captain Florent Groberg, each representing the U.S . Army. NASCAR together with Daytona International Speedway and race teams will host hundreds of active military and veterans, and their families, during the race weekend. Among them will be the 65th Infantry Regiment of the U.S . Army, nicknamed " The Bourinqueneers," a Puerto Rican regiment that was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal in April. Several active military members present for Saturday's Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola will take part in a special moment of recognition for the U.S . Armed Forces before the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Pre-race activities will also feature a flyover of four F-16s from the 93rd Fighter Squadron from Homestead Air Reserve Base during the national anthem, which will be performed by the U.S . Army Maneuver Center of Excellence Band from Fort Benning, Georgia. The national anthem will be performed as 200 military members unfurl a giant American flag in the infield. Retired U.S . Air Force Sergeant Kelly Miller will be grand marshal for Friday's Subway Firecracker 250 Powered By Coca-Cola. A Subway franchisee, Miller served as an aeromedical service specialist, responsible for the healthcare of Air Force pilots and flight crews. Retired Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Fred Gardner, also a Subway franchisee, will serve as the honorary starter. Gardner operated the Terrier missile first control system during Mediterranean tours. Additional live coverage of the Subway Firecracker 250 Powered By Coca-Cola and Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola can be found on NASCAR.com .
Toyota pipeline flows freely with youth, talent
RELATED: First look at new Toyota race car The expeditious elevation of Daniel Suarez into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series last week reinforced the importance of a feeder system for teams hoping to groom young, talented drivers for future endeavors at the top level. "Look around. What would we have done?" Joe Gibbs, founder and owner of Joe Gibbs Racing , said Jan. 10 following two whirlwind announcements at the organization's headquarters in Huntersville, North Carolina. Suarez, the 2016 NASCAR XFINITY Series champion and the first Mexican-born driver to win a national series title in NASCAR, was scheduled to return to the XFINITY Series this year to defend his title. But the surprising departure of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Carl Edwards created an unexpected opening within the JGR camp and the organization's No. 19 entry. RELATED: Edwards steps away, Suarez to replace " Full timeline Fortunately for JGR, the 24-year-old Suarez was waiting in the wings. Instead of competing full-time in the XFINITY Series, Suarez will now take over the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series entry vacated by Edwards for 2017. He will also compete in a select number of NXS races. "I think the hard work, working on developing young guys is a big part of this," Gibbs said of organization's XFINITY Series effort. "Thank goodness (Suarez) was there and we had done that." Suarez is one of several drivers in a Toyota pipeline that has become filled with young talent. The automaker, which made its NASCAR debut in 2004 in the Camping World Truck Series, continually seeks to identify gifted drivers from a variety of racing's lower levels, then assist them and their teams as they move through the ranks. Erik Jones will compete full-time in 2017 for Furniture Row Racing as a teammate to Martin Truex Jr . in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series after racing for JGR's XFINITY Series program a year ago. RELATED: FRR adds Jones to its growing team Christopher Bell will once again drive for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Camping World Truck Series after finishing third in points last year. Although he was sidelined for part of the '16 season following surgery for a brain tumor, Matt Tifft , 20, made 10 XFINITY Series starts for JGR last year as well as 10 NCWTS starts for Red Horse Racing. Ben Rhodes (19) and Cameron Hayley (20) competed last season for ThorSport Racing in the Camping World Truck Series. "Our farm system is going to continue to be something that we invest in," David Wilson, President & General Manager, Toyota Racing Development, USA, told NASCAR.com. "It's validation and it just furthers our resolve that in spite of the inherent risk … the return on that investment is still going to be good and it's going to validate our commitment." Wilson was scheduled to attend this past weekend's Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals. The prestigious event, which concluded Saturday night, was won by Bell. MORE: Bell triumphs at Chili Bowl "I want to show them how important it is for them to be representing our brand," Wilson said. With more than two dozen of the 300-plus participants at the Chili Bowl affiliated with Toyota, Wilson said there is "no doubt" that someone from the group "is going to be in an announcement like this that happened (at JGR) five years from now." Having an abundance of talent is a good problem, but it is still a problem, in part because of the limited number of seats/rides available in the various series, according to Ed Laukes, Vice President of Integrated Marketing Operations for Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), USA. "We are always concerned about being overloaded with the young guys as they're coming through the ranks," he said, "because we don't want to have that talent get developed around TRD (Toyota Racing Development) and our guys, and then they end up with another company, with another manufacturer, with another race team." Toyota officials are eager to help identify and work with drivers and teams as they grow, according to Laukes. But ultimately, it's up to owners to continue to invest in their own programs or, as Furniture Row Racing did last year, make the switch to Toyota to further enhance their efforts. Furniture Row made the switch from Chevrolet to Toyota for 2016. The Denver, Colorado-based organization has since added the second team, opening up an opportunity for Jones to move up to the premier series. "That's always going to be the secret sauce in the whole thing," Laukes said. "Because we can't do it as a manufacturer. We're not a team owner, we never have been and we have no plan of being a team owner. … "But it always is a concern. We do a lot of stuff in Late Model, a lot of stuff in Midgets. We’ve been around a lot of those series for a long time." JGR develops and draws talent from more than just the organization's XFINITY Series program. Kyle Busch Motorsports plays a key role in the process as well. Gibbs said Busch, the 2015 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion and driver of the team's No. 18 Toyota, "has been very good at analyzing and discovering young talent. "He still races in Late Models and all that kind of stuff," Gibbs said. "I talk to him a lot and say, 'Hey, who do you see?' Or ask him an opinion. I've asked him for his opinion on Daniel, on Erik. And he’s normally pretty much spot-on. He's really good, I think, at evaluating drivers." While Busch has been criticized by some for competing in, and often dominating, races in other series, running those events has allowed him to evaluate his KBM equipment as well as the younger drivers. "For us, when we put somebody in his trucks, we pretty much know they're going to be in the best stuff," Gibbs said. "Now, it's up to them. And if they can't get it done with Kyle, then odds are there's something wrong. … "Hopefully that's the way it is with our XFINITY program. We know (we have) the best crew chiefs, best motor, best car. If they can't get to the front with that, then odds are … that's what you're evaluating. We're all looking for that special driver." &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;gt;
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."
Gibbs: 'I was totally surprised' by Edwards' decision
Joe Gibbs explains his reaction to the decision that Carl Edwards made to step away from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
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.