Marty Snider and Chris Rice preview the weekend ahead as the NASCAR Sprint Cup series takes on one of the oldest surfaces on the circuit at the Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Reigning XFINITY champion looks to balance title run, Sprint Cup slate Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The car looks familiar, and the driver is a year older but otherwise unchanged. The team that helped carry Chase Elliott to the 2014 NASCAR XFINITY Series title, however, has undergone a major overhaul. Gone is spreadsheet-wielding crew chief Greg Ives, who can now be seen heading up the efforts of JR Motorsports founder and namesake Dale Earnhardt Jr. in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series. Likewise, car chief Travis Mack has departed, and has assumed the same duties with Earnhardt Jr.'s No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports outfit. Veteran crew chief Ernie Cope, who previously handled the organization’s third team that featured several Cup drivers (Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne), is now overseeing the No. 9 team as Elliott begins preparations to defend his series title. Christopher Allen is the team's new car chief, while Tristan Smith (lead engineer), Seth Kookier (assistant race engineer) and Rick Pennington (rear end mechanic) are also new to the team. HMS’ Brad Thompson will serve as engine tuner. "I think it's kind of like starting over a little bit, I guess, with Ernie and really a whole new group of guys," Elliott, 19, said. "I think there are only two or three of us that are back with the team from last year, and that includes me. "Last year we worked pretty closely together. We tried to stay on the same page with setup stuff; we were usually very, very similar last year to (their) car and whatever they were running. I think that relationship helped. "And we got to work with them firsthand at Road America when Greg was at home with his (new) baby. Having that race behind us will hopefully help us get going." A three-time race winner last season, Elliott is attempting to become only the seventh driver in the history of the series to capture back-to-back titles. His first opportunity to get a leg up on the competition comes here on Saturday with the running of the Alert Today Florida 300 (FOX Sports 1, 3:30 pm ET) at Daytona International Speedway. The son of NASCAR Hall of Fame member Bill Elliott (himself a champion in NASCAR's premier series), the younger Elliott admits he's a long way from being an expert in the series. One season and one championship taught him plenty, but there's still much more to absorb. "It still kind of feels new to me; I definitely don't feel like a veteran, that's for sure," he said. "It's crazy to think that it's already been a year since that first (series) start and that we're back at Daytona. A year goes by fast. "I still have a lot to learn, still a lot of new things I'm experiencing, especially with the personnel changes this season." Elliott’s journey up the racing ladder has been slow and steady by design. He competed in a mixture of ARCA, NASCAR K&N Pro Series and Camping World Truck Series races – and winning on more than one occasion – while filling the racing void with a Late Model effort. That schedule, he said, helped prepare him for the rigors of last year’s 33-race XFINITY Series schedule. "I can think back to a couple of years ago when we were running Late Model stuff and we ran something in the mid-40s," he said. "The number of (XFINITY) races, that didn't feel like a ton to me; the biggest difference was just the traveling." His Late Model efforts were primarily in the Southeast. There were no West Coast trips, or stops in the Midwest. In addition to defending his series championship, Elliott is also scheduled to make his Sprint Cup Series debut this season. He will drive a fifth car for Hendrick Motorsports in five events before sliding into the group’s No. 24 car in '16, replacing four-time champion Jeff Gordon. The five Sprint Cup races are Martinsville (March 29), Richmond (April 25), Charlotte (May 24), Indianapolis (July 26) and Darlington (Sept. 6). This schedule might be a bit more hectic on those weekends, but it's something Elliott said he’s eager to attempt. "The good part about it is that the first race at Martinsville is an off-weekend for the XFINITY Series," he said. "Having that opportunity to just try to get your feet wet a little bit will be a good time to do that – not having going back and forth. "But at the same time, I've always enjoyed running two races a weekend. I can remember from the go-karting days, I used to always run a couple of races. In Late Model races, the weekend where they had their bigger shows, I used to always try to run the Super and the Pro races as well. I've always really liked that." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
This week's edition of GarageCam is full of Camping World Truck Series drivers preparing for the North Carolina Education Lottery 200.
Joey Logano celebrates winning his first DAYTONA 500 in Victory Lane.
Ryan Reed talks about how winning the Alert Today Florida 300 at Daytona International Speedway is a step in the right direction and gives him and his team confidence for the 2015 season.
Joey Logano holds off the rest of the field during a Green-White-Checkered Finish to capture his first DAYTONA 500 victory.
Tyler Reddick celebrates in Victory Lane after getting his first career win in the NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona
NASCAR on NBC crew go in-depth on Gordon's choice to step away Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live MORE: NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France statement on Gordon " Gordon hub page RELATED: Drivers react to Gordon's announcement " Fans share favorite Gordon memories CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- 2015 marks the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at the start of a 10-year relationship between NASCAR and NBC Sports. It also marks Jeff Gordon 's final one. The NASCAR on NBC broadcasting team of Jeff Burton , Steve Letarte and Rick Allen touched on Gordon's recent announcement that this would be his last full-time Cup season on Tuesday during Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by Technocom, each with their own spin on it, as a driver, crew chief and broadcaster. The trio gets into why Gordon would have made this decision to leave NASCAR at the top of his game, what he's been missing out on in his personal life and how they think he'll fare in 2015. Jeff Burton , 21-time Sprint Cup Series winner "The starting age is starting sooner. When a guy can start sooner, that means they're probably going to retire sooner. You love what you're doing, but it's a really stressful way to make a living. What I came to believe was the season was perpetual; it never stopped. Everybody looks at it where there's a 2014 and 2015 schedule -- and there are, for points -- but from a lifestyle standpoint and a commitment standpoint, it's from January to January. It doesn't stop. So when you do that for 20 years, it's hard to bring that same level of intensity that you did on year 20 as you did on year one. I think that's why you see drivers retiring. "To be quite honest, this generation of drivers has been really fortunate to be able, financially, to retire. In the sixties, that didn't happen. The fact that we're starting younger, the fact that, financially, it's better in the sport than it's ever been. The fact that it is very intense. It's hard on your family, it is a commitment not only for the drivers that the crew chiefs and everybody involved, it's a commitment for the families, too. When you don't get to see your kid graduate, when you don't get to see your daughter leave to go to the prom and all those kinds of things start happening later in life as you have children, they start to mean more. So all of those things start to factor in. "It is a great thing when a guy like Jeff Gordon can retire when he's at the top of the game. He was a real serious contender for the championship (in 2014) and to be able to say 'Hey, this is my last year,' I think that's a great thing, it's wonderful that he can do it, but there's a lot of factors that go into that." RELATED: NBC Sports 'thrilled' to be part of NASCAR coverage Steve Letarte, 15-time Sprint Cup Series-winning crew chief "The sport is difficult. The Cup garage is one of the most competitive places I've ever seen. For a driver or crew chief, you have to bring your A-game week in and week out, 36 races over the course of the year. Jeff's point was accurate -- the season never ends. We might not race for a few weeks or a few months but there's so much work that has to be done over those few months that really you never get a chance to step away and I wouldn't give back a single year of my career as a crew chief, I loved every race, every minute of it. But just like Jeff said, I missed my little girl's first communion. "There's a lot of things you have to sacrifice and basically you have to get to a point where you look in a mirror and decide 'Am I as good as I can be? Does my team deserve better? Am I bringing all the effort I can bring?' and I felt like I did that last year but at some point, I felt like I would be the hold up to my race team. Dale Jr. was committed, the guys on the team were committed. They make the same sacrifices and if you can't bring the same intensity as you brought last year or the year before then you really have to look in the mirror and make another decision. "I mean, to be quite frank, who knew what possibilities were out there for me, but the NBC team is great and I'm glad to be on it and it really gives me an opportunity to still cover a sport that I love at what seems to be a cut back schedule compared to being a crew chief but my second family is still in the NASCAR garage and I still get to see them for a big chunk of the year." RELATED: NBC, Offerman 'park and wreck' way into NASCAR Rick Allen , NBC Sports commentator and lead race announcer "I'm actually already trying to write the script for when Jeff Gordon wins the championship at Homestead in his final race in the Sprint Cup Series. There are some incredible storylines coming into the 2015 season that we get to cover. The excitement level, I think, is growing continuously and I can't wait to be a part of that." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2016 Voting Day set for May 20 RELATED: Steve Byrnes to vote on NASCAR Hall of Fame heroes DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- NASCAR today announced several revisions to the NASCAR Hall of Fame (NHOF) Voting Panel. The 58-member panel will vote for the NHOF Class of 2016 on Wednesday, May 20 in Charlotte, North Carolina, to be announced that afternoon in the NASCAR Hall of Fame's Great Hall. For the first time, new NASCAR broadcast partner NBC will be represented on the Voting Panel. Below are the eight new members of the NHOF Voting Panel. • Ron Bennett, Holland (New York) Motorsports Complex • Jeff Burton , NBC Sports Network • Steve Byrnes, FOX Sports 1 • Brent Dewar, NASCAR • Eli Gold, Motor Racing Network • Kevin Harvick , reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champion • Marty Smith, ESPN • Jim Utter, Charlotte Observer A full list of the panel members can be found below. "These eight new voters collectively hold a vast array of NASCAR knowledge from all disciplines of the industry," said Brett Jewkes, NASCAR senior vice president and chief communications officer. "Each new member brings a unique background and passion for the history of NASCAR and will contribute greatly to the Hall of Fame voting process." The 22-member Nominating Committee -- which includes the additions of Bennett and Dewar -- will meet on Friday, Feb. 20 in Daytona Beach, Florida, to discuss, debate, and vote for the 20 NHOF Class of 2016 nominees and five nominees for the second Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR. The results will be announced that afternoon at Daytona International Speedway . Additionally, Dr. Jerry Punch will move to the voting panel for the Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence. The fifth recipient of the award will be announced during the July race weekend at Daytona. The NHOF Class of 2015, which includes Bill Elliott, Fred Lorenzen, Wendell Scott, Joe Weatherly and Rex White, will be officially inducted on Friday, Jan. 30 at 8 p.m. ET live on NBC Sports Network. NOMINATING COMMITTEE NASCAR Hall of Fame: Executive Director Winston Kelley; Historian Buz McKim. NASCAR Officials: Chairman / CEO Brian France; Vice Chairman Jim France; President Mike Helton; Chief Operating Officer Brent Dewar; Executive Vice President / Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell; Executive Vice President / Chief Marketing Officer Steve Phelps; Senior Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton; Competition Administrator Jerry Cook. Track Owners/Operators: International Speedway Corporation CEO Lesa Kennedy; Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell; Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage; Atlanta Motor Speedway President Ed Clark; former Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Tony George; Dover Motorsports CEO Denis McGlynn; Pocono Raceway board of director member Looie McNally; Bowman Gray Stadium operator Dale Pinilis; Holland Motorsports Complex operator Ron Bennett; Rockford Speedway operator Jody Deery; West Coast representative Ken Clapp. Media: Mike Joy, FOX. VOTING PANEL The Voting Panel consists of the above 22-member Nominating Committee and the following 36 representatives. In addition a Fan Vote is the 59th -- and final -- vote. American Auto Racing Writers & Broadcasters Association: Dusty Brandel, AARWBA President. Eastern Motorsports Press Association: Ron Hedger, EMPA President. National Motorsports Press Association: Brian Nelson, NMPA President. Print & Online Media: Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com; Jenna Fryer, Associated Press; Al Pearce, Autoweek; Jim Pedley, RacinToday.com; Bob Pockrass, Sporting News; Nate Ryan, USA Today; Jim Utter, Charlotte Observer. Broadcasters: Rick Allen , NBC; Jeff Burton , NBCSN; Steve Byrnes, FS1; Eli Gold, MRN; Dave Moody, SiriusXM; Doug Rice, PRN; Marty Smith, ESPN. Manufacturers: Jim Campbell, Chevrolet; Edsel Ford, Ford; David Wilson, Toyota. Retired Drivers: Ned Jarrett; Richard Petty; Ricky Rudd. Retired Car Owners: Junior Johnson; Bud Moore; Robert Yates. Retired Crew Chiefs: Buddy Parrott; Waddell Wilson; Eddie Wood. Reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion : Kevin Harvick . Industry Leaders: Former NASCAR Senior Vice President Paul Brooks; MRN announcer Barney Hall; Retired Associated Press writer Mike Harris; former motor sports journalist Tom Higgins; former broadcaster Ken Squier; former Charlotte Motor Speedway President Humpy Wheeler. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule