Will Kimmel to drive for TriStar Motorsports
Ingersoll Rand will serve as primary sponsor for Kimmel's five NNS starts
HScott Motorsports will not field a team for 2017
Harry Scott Jr., owner of HScott Motorsports, announced that his team will not field a NASCAR entry for the 2017 season.
Dale Jr. medically cleared, will run 2017 Daytona 500
Hendrick Motorsports announced Thursday that Dale Earnhardt Jr., two-time Daytona 500 winner, has been medically cleared to return to NASCAR competition in the 2017 Daytona 500.
Junior: Bowman 'earned it,' will drive No. 88 in The Clash
Dale Earnhardt Jr. spoke with the media during a teleconference Friday morning about his return to the sport and about his substitute driver for 2016, Alex Bowman, running The Clash at Daytona in the No. 88.
Kimmel to drive for ThorSport at Homestead
10-time ARCA champion will make second Truck Series start of 2013
K&N East champ Justin Haley joins GMS Racing for 2017
RELATED: See which drivers, crew chiefs are on the move in '17 Statesville, N.C. - Two wins, 13 top-five finishes and 14 top-10 results in just 14 races. That is what it took for Justin Haley to claim the 2016 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East (NKNPSE) Championship. On Saturday night, the 17-year-old will accept his title in front of his family, teammates and competitors. Today he announces that he will be taking the next step in his career by joining GMS Racing for the 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) season. Haley, who has competed in a total of six NCWTS races over the past two seasons with one top-10 finish, will pilot the No. 24 Chevrolet Silverado beginning at Martinsville Speedway . Haley's rookie season will be directed by second-year crew chief Kevin Bellicourt. "I'm so excited and thankful for this opportunity with GMS Racing. The past few years in K&N has been an effort to get to the next step in my career and I don't think we could have done any better than joining GMS, especially at this point in time," Haley said. "Everyone knows what they've been able to accomplish over the last year and it's that type of consistency and drive that every driver wants to see when making a decision like this. Kevin Bellicourt coming on for 2017 is one of the most exciting parts of this deal. He's had a lot of success with young drivers and I can't wait to see what we're able to accomplish." The Indiana native began his racing career in 2008, at the age of nine years old. He has earned wins in quarter midgets, micro sprints, the CRA Late Model Sportsman Series, JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour, ARCA Racing Series and the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. In 2015, Haley completed his first full-time season in the NKNPSE with six top-five and 10 top-10 finishes, and a ranking of sixth in the point standings. He followed that up in 2016 by earning his first NKNPSE win at Greenville-Pickens Speedway after starting from the second position and his second victory at Columbus Motor Speedway where he started from the pole position. With only one finish outside of the top five and no result worse than ninth, Haley claimed the NKNPSE title by a 22-point margin. Bellicourt joins GMS after completing his first year as a NCWTS crew chief with ThorSport Racing and driver Ben Rhodes , earning two top-five and five top-10 finishes. He also earned the 2015 NKNPSE Championship with driver William Byron. "There are a lot of great things happening at GMS Racing," said Bellicourt. "It's one thing to watch the progress and success from a distance, but to now be a part of what is coming together is a completely different experience and I'm thankful for chance to be here. Justin is a great driver, who has had a lot of success fast, but he has handled it like a driver who has been doing this for years. I'm excited to see what he's able to do once we get him in the No. 24." Bellicourt and Haley join a GMS Racing team that garnered six wins with four different drivers last season, as well as the 2016 NCWTS Championship with veteran driver Johnny Sauter r. Haley will unite with Sauter and 17-year-old Kaz Grala, who returns to the team after competing in nine NCWTS races in 2016. Haley and Grala will both compete for Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in 2017. Additional details on sponsorship for all three drivers will be announced at a later date.
BK Racing shuffle: Ragan, DiBenedetto won't return
BK Racing will have a significant overhaul to its driver lineup for 2017 with announcements on consecutive days that primary drivers David Ragan and Matt DiBenedetto would not return to the team next season. DiBenedetto, touting the promise of an exciting announcement in the future, announced Thursday night on Twitter that he would not return to the Charlotte-based team. Ragan's departure was the next bit of news, with the Ron Devine-owned organization confirming that transition Friday afternoon. I've decided to go in a different direction next year. Exciting announcements coming soon. It's been a great ride @BKRacing_2383 Thank you! — Matthew DiBenedetto (@mattdracing) December 8, 2016 In two years with the organization, DiBenedetto logged 68 starts with one top-10 finish. That finish, in April 2016 at Bristol, was a sixth-place result -- he finished one spot ahead of 2014 champion Kevin Harvick -- and resulted in an emotional, memorable on-air interview. "I can only say so much at this time," DiBenedetto said Thursday night on SiriusXM Radio. "I've been in talks with BK, and no hard feelings. I'm appreciative of everything they've given me. … Just kind of evaluating the team situation for next year. From my end there's a little too much unknown, so I just had to make that decision. I'm excited about what the future has to hold here still, and obviously everyone will have to stay tuned." Devine confirmed DiBenedetto's parting through a statement released later Thursday evening. "Our 33rd- and 34th-place finishes this year did not produce the results we were hoping to achieve," Devine said. "I am, however, very proud of Matt DiBenedetto and his many accomplishments over the past two years. He is a wonderful driver and a special person. I am confident that Matt will go on to be a very successful NASCAR driver, and I believe it is the right time to release him so that he can pursue other opportunities. "Myself and everyone at BK Racing wishes Matt all the best in his future endeavors. I am looking forward to much success for both Matt and BK Racing ." Devine struck a similar tone in his statement on Ragan's release, hinting at measures to better its results next season. " BK Racing has agreed not to renew David Ragan 's contract for next year," Devine said. "Everyone wishes David the best of luck in his career. BK Racing will continue to restructure as an ongoing effort to improve our on-track performance ... and we will be announcing our 2017 driver lineup in the near future." DiBenedetto and Ragan were the primary drivers for BK Racing in 2016, but the organization also fielded Toyotas in spot duty for Jeffrey Earnhardt , Ryan Ellis , Dylan Lupton , Robert Richardson Jr., and Michael Waltrip. The team has been full time in NASCAR's premier series since 2012, when it debuted as a two-car outfit with drivers Landon Cassill and Travis Kvapil . Ragan, 31, has two victories in NASCAR's top division since he began full-time competition in 2007. He won at Daytona International Speedway driving for Roush Fenway Racing in July 2011 and handed Front Row Motorsports its first victory at Talladega Superspeedway in May 2013. Ragan finished 33rd in the final standings in his only season for BK Racing . His most recent top-10 finish was in March 2015 in a fill-in role for the injured Kyle Busch in Joe Gibbs Racing 's No. 18 Toyota. DiBenedetto missed one race in 2016, at Texas Motor Speedway in November, after not being medically cleared following a wreck in the NASCAR XFINITY Series the day prior. He was cleared from concussion protocol in time for the next race. DiBenedetto, 25, also has 68 career starts in the XFINITY Series. &amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;gt;
Despite team changes, Kenseth remains focused for '17
His car chief has departed and his over-the-wall crew is expected to have a slightly different look for the upcoming season. The rules package will be new and there's another team in the Huntersville, North Carolina, to Denver, Colorado, pipeline. But don't expect Matt Kenseth , driver of the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing in NASCAR's premier series, to fret about the alterations to the racing landscape. "Worry never gets anything fixed or makes anything better," Kenseth said. He has rolled with the changes in the past, during a lengthy 13-year career at Roush Fenway Racing and the previous four at JGR. Rule changes, personnel moves, team expansion and contraction, Kenseth has seen it all before, adapting as best he can while seldom falling out of contention. "Nobody does a perfect job at this but I've gotten better through the years," Kenseth said. "I focus pretty hard on not worrying about things that I can't control because worrying never helps. Everybody worries to a certain extent. I try not to because it's not productive." JGR added a fourth team in 2015, bringing Carl Edwards into the fold to join Kenseth and te ammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch . A technical and engineering alliance with Furniture Row Racing was undertaken for 2016. That alliance has since expanded -- Furniture Row will add a second team for 20-year-old Erik Jones to go along with that of driver Martin Truex Jr . for the 2017 season. "We've definitely been expanding fast and there are definitely concerns that come with that," Kenseth said. "But there are also benefits too. We learned a lot from Martin and Cole (Pearn, crew chief) this year." In the meantime, the clock is ticking. At 44 and with the future of one-time teammate Greg Biffle undetermined, Kenseth has inherited, temporarily at least, the title of the series' oldest full-time competitor. His career starts mark of 614 is now tops among active drivers; his 38 wins rank 20th overall and he is tied for No. 2 among those currently competing. The 2017 season will be his 18th as a full-time racer at NASCAR's top level. He has finished as high as second on two occasions, in 2006 and '13, but hasn't made it to the final round under the current elimination-style format since its debut in '14. It's been more than a decade since Kenseth won NASCAR's top prize and each season that passes represents another opportunity lost. "I think after you win one you look at it like that," he said. "But certainly as you get older you realize that 'OK, one more passed by and there's not as many (opportunities) in front of me.' "When you're 33 or whatever, you don't really think like that. …" The future might look a bit grim if Kenseth and his team, under the guidance of crew chief Jason Ratcliff, had been struggling. But that hasn't been the case. Only three other drivers -- Jimmie Johnson (20 wins), Kevin Harvick (16) and Joey Logano (15) have won more races since Kenseth packed his bags and headed to JGR in 2013. Kenseth and Busch are next in line with 14 victories each. A new season will bring with it new opportunities. And change. Car chief Jeff Meendering has moved on to become crew chief for a new XFINITY Series team fielded by Stewart-Haas Racing . The race-day pit crew changes have yet to be determined. Aero package updates and other matters await. Kenseth has seen it before. "I think I've done a good job of keeping it in perspective," he said. "There are a lot of things you can control. And a lot you just can't." &amp;lt;/p&amp;gt;
Kyle Larson, Target give back in many ways
The NASCAR racing season ended last month but someone forgot to tell Kyle Larson . The Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates driver will be on the road for the holidays, traveling with his family to Sydney, Australia to race sprint cars for a week or so. Once he returns stateside, he'll be heading to Tulsa, Oklahoma, for the annual Chili Bowl Nationals Jan. 9-14. There are times when the 24-year-old NASCAR driver isn't behind the wheel. Wednesday was one of those rare occasions. Larson, along with members of his No. 42 team, spent the afternoon at the Milton Boys and Girls Club in Charlotte, handing out early Christmas gifts provided by sponsor Target. "Target (does) a lot for different communities and charities," Larson said. "It was cool to come here and give these kids gifts. … They had a good time; they were all smiling, dancing on (one of the games) over there." A wide variety of board games, electronic games and even a virtual reality unit were among the items delivered. "It feels good to do a small part of giving back," said Larson, who will begin his fourth season as a full-time competitor in NASCAR's premier series in 2017. "Target is the one donating all the gifts, I'm just donating my time and having a good time with it. I've gotten to do a lot of stuff with them this year, donating books to different schools, a lot of toys. … It's been a lot of fun. It's the first year I've really gotten to do this stuff more often and I'm hoping to do a lot more next year." According to team officials, Larson and Target joined together in '16 to provide toys to children affected by flooding in West Virginia; delivered 50 backpacks and back-to-school supplies to a disadvantaged elementary school in Darlington, South Carolina; and visited two elementary schools in Dallas, Texas, to donate gift cards and books in support of Texas Motor Speedway 's Speeding to Read program. Additionally, Larson and Target representatives visited Target House at St. Jude Children's Hospital and also donated library supplies to a school in the Phoenix area. Wednesday's gathering helped Larson, who hails from Elk Grove, California, get in the Christmas spirit. He and his family, girlfriend Katelyn Sweet and son Owen, will move up their holiday visits with other family members due to their upcoming trip to Australia. "My favorite time of the holiday season is just getting to spend time with a lot of the family I don't really get to see throughout the year," he said. "We travel so often that I don't ever really get to go home to California and see them. … So we'll go to California next week and get to hang out with all of them." Larson won his first premier series event in 2016, at Michigan International Speedway , and qualified for NASCAR’s championship-determining Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Although he was one of four drivers eliminated after the Round of 16, he finished a career-best ninth in the final points standings.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. cleared to resume NASCAR competition
RELATED: Dale through the years " Recovery timeline CAIN: Dale Jr.'s strong stand makes him, sport better NASCAR premier series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr . has received medical clearance to resume his racing career, Hendrick Motorsports announced Thursday. Earnhardt, 42, was sidelined for the final 18 races of the 2016 season after suffering a concussion. On Wednesday, he participated in an on-track testing session at Darlington Raceway under the supervision of Charlotte neurosurgeon Dr. Jerry Petty. Earnhardt was cleared by Dr. Micky Collins, medical director of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program in Pittsburgh. Collins, who consulted with Dr. Petty following Wednesday's on-track activity, has overseen Earnhardt's rehabilitation program and also treated him for a similar injury in 2012. "I expected things to go really well yesterday, and that’s exactly what happened," Earnhardt said of an afternoon spent behind the wheel at the 1.366-mile South Carolina track. "Actually getting in a race car was an important final step, and it gives me a ton of confidence going into 2017." Earnhardt completed 185 laps in his No. 88 Chevrolet during the course of the nearly five-hour session. Crew chief Greg Ives was on hand to oversee his driver’s efforts as well. Earnhardt, recently voted the series most popular driver for the 14th consecutive season, said he expects to do more testing in January "to help knock the rust off." RELATED: Junior wins NMPA Sprint Most Popular Driver Award "When it's time to go to Daytona, I' ll be ready," the winner of 26 premier series races said. The 2017 racing season officially gets underway with the 59th running of the Daytona 500 , scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 26 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Earnhardt will not compete in the annual non-points, season-opening race, The Clash at Daytona International Speedway (Feb. 18, 8 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Instead, HMS officials said Alex Bowman , who filled in for Earnhardt in 10 of the final 18 races of 2016, will drive the team's No. 88 entry. Bowman won the pole at Phoenix in November, his first in the series. "Everyone agreed that he more than earned (the opportunity)," Earnhardt said, "and (sponsor) Nationwide was 100 percent on board." RELATED: NASCAR community reacts to Junior's return It's possible Earnhardt could participate in up to two additional tests – Hendrick Motorsports is one of four teams expected to take part in a Goodyear tire test scheduled for Jan. 10-11 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway , and the season's first organizational test is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 31/Feb. 1 at Phoenix International Raceway . Collins called Earnhardt "one of the hardest-working patients I've ever encountered." "He's done everything we've asked, and we believe he is ready to compete at a professional level again and can withstand the normal forces of a race car driver," Collins said. "Dale has been very open with us, and we've had plenty of time for his treatment, so we feel very good about his long-term prospects and how this has been managed by everyone involved." Team owner Rick Hendrick said he's proud of Earnhardt "for listening to his body and standing up to take responsibility for his health. "He's worked extremely hard and set a terrific example for others," Hendrick said. "It's great news as we go into the offseason, and we can't wait to see him back on the race track at Daytona." In addition to Bowman, four-time series champion Jeff Gordon also drove for the team in eight starts during Earnhardt's absence. Earnhardt was 13th in points with six top-five finishes before being sidelined prior to the July race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and wound up 32nd in the final standings. The 2012 injury forced him to miss two races; he finished 12th in points that season. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;