Auto-Owners Insurance expands sponsorship pact with Furniture Row Racing
RELATED: New looks for 2017 DENVER, Colo. (Jan. 16, 2017) -- Furniture Row Racing announced that Auto-Owners Insurance has agreed to a multiyear primary sponsorship for Martin Truex Jr .'s No. 78 Toyota Camry in the NASCAR Cup Series. The Fortune 500 company, which joined Furniture Row Racing in 2016 as a primary sponsor for three races, will double that amount in both 2017 and 2018. The six races the Auto-Owners Insurance paint scheme will adorn Truex's No. 78 Camry in 2017 will be at Kansas Speedway (May 13), Michigan International Speedway (June 18), Indianapolis Motor Speedway (July 23), Richmond International Raceway (Sept. 9), Charlotte Motor Speedway (Oct. 7) and Phoenix International Raceway (Nov. 12). Auto-Owners Insurance, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2016, provides auto, home, life and business coverage for NASCAR fans and customers through local, independent agents in 26 states. The company is based in Lansing, Michigan. "Teaming up with Furniture Row Racing has been an outstanding fit for Auto-Owners, and we are excited to continue our partnership for the 2017 and 2018 seasons," said Mary Pierce, senior vice president of marketing and sales at Auto-Owners. "Martin and the No. 78 team have pioneered their way to excellence at the highest level of NASCAR. We truly admire their hard work and consistency, and look forward to being a part of their continued success." The Auto-Owners Insurance blue hue shared a competitive experience with Furniture Row Racing in 2016. In the three races that Auto-Owners Insurance was the primary sponsor, Truex won the prestigious Southern 500 in Darlington, South Carolina, finished seventh at the fall race in Martinsville, Virginia, and was eighth at the Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis. "There was indeed something special about the success of the blue Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota Camry last year and we are more than thrilled that the company is expanding its partnership with Furniture Row Racing for the next two seasons," said Furniture Row Racing team president Joe Garone. "Auto-Owners Insurance has been a winning company for a century and we are humbled that they have placed their confidence in our race team." Truex was equally excited to hear about the new sponsorship agreement. "Winning the Southern 500 -- a triple crown race -- with the blue Auto-Owners Insurance paint scheme was without a doubt one of the main highlights of my racing career," said Truex. "We want to give Auto-Owners Insurance more success as we look forward to the 2017 season. I was able to visit the Auto-Owners Insurance headquarters in Lansing and came away feeling proud to be associated with a company that has had 100 years of success."
Determination, focus drive Martin to Hall of Fame
RELATED: Learn more about the Class of 2017 " Martin's top moments Mark Martin is respected and revered for a 31-year NASCAR racing career that includes 40 Cup victories, 49 XFINITY wins and five heralded IROC championships. He is considered one of the most talented, highly focused and broadly successful competitors in NASCAR history. And later this week, Martin will formally acquire a designation that makes him most proud of all: NASCAR Hall of Famer. "When I'm introduced at a function, now people can call me something, I'll have a title," Martin, 58, said this week with a laugh. "Prior to that, you kind of had to search for a title, although I had done a lot of cool and amazing things in my career." His long list of "cool and amazing things" is what earned Martin this highest of honors. He joins Benny Parsons, Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick and Raymond Parks in this year’s Hall of Fame class and will be formally inducted Friday in Charlotte (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN). RELATED: Parks set early standard " Prolonged excellence Childress' hallmark For Martin, it is a story of supreme determination and talent. In addition to his 40 wins and five championship runner-up finishes in NASCAR's highest level, Martin proved to be one of the series’ most diverse competitors -- ever. He won four GT class championships competing in the Rolex 24 during the 1990s. And his five IROC titles -- and four more runner-up IROC championship finishes -- showed Martin’s great ability bettering the best drivers across all forms of racing from NASCAR to IndyCar to sports cars to sprint cars. It is certainly something that separates and elevates him to the highest of standards through four decades of the best competition in multiple genres. So understandably, Martin had to really think about what in his vast career makes him most proud. "I don't know if there's a single thing," Martin said. "One thing, I would have to say the fact that I made it to NASCAR at such a young age (22). At the time it was an amazingly young age, then I fell on my face and had to go home and start my career again. "So I would say perseverance, if you want to sum it up in one word. Having to start my career all over again and building my way back. Having a second chance is probably the biggest thing." "And the second thing is what I did in the IROC Series." Martin has acknowledged that he was as focused and intense as they came. He was the first driver to seriously incorporate fitness training into his race preparation -- something that may have eased his ability to compete at such a high level even into his 50s. That determination to find an edge was apparent in the garage, even from an early age. He was among the rare drivers to frequently be seen looking into the hood of his car and working alongside the crew. It was the way he was raised by his father Julian, who took great care in guiding his son's passion. There are photos of Martin’s earliest racing days clearly showing how Julian Martin had gone so far to alter his son's first race cars out of love and safety -- mounting the steering wheel in the middle of the car instead of having it on the far left. Dad and son travelled from their native Arkansas throughout the Midwest following the racing dream and they were very close -- now the hard work rewarded with Martin’s long list of achievements and this highest of NASCAR's high honors. Heartbreakingly, Julian was killed when the plane he was piloting crashed in the Nevada mountains in August of 1998, also taking the life of Martin’s stepmother and 11-year old stepsister. Martin remembers immersing himself in competition as best he could to deal with the tragedy. Martin won the night race at Bristol two weeks after losing his father. Immediately after climbing out of his car in Victory Lane, he emotionally thanked the race fans for "their sympathy, love and support" saying their "love for our family has meant everything." "I felt it was my obligation and responsibility to go racing and that's what my dad would have wanted," Martin acknowledged last week. "It was tough, but it would have been tough sitting on a couch in a daze, too. "To me, racing was sort of a responsibility that I had. I felt responsibility toward the 50 or 100 people that supported the (then-Roush Racing) 6-car and a responsibility to race. I just didn't feel like missing a race because I was grieving. … To me, at the time, it just didn't seem like the right thing to do. "It did help me cope with the horrendous loss I was experiencing because I did have to pick up and go racing." And for Martin, the success he would later experience in the second half of his career is as impressive and inspiring as anything he accomplished. He came as close as he ever had to winning the Daytona 500 in 2007, losing the race to Kevin Harvick by a mere 0.02-seconds -- a hood-length -- in a photo finish that marked Martin’s best ever showing in the Great American Race. RELATED: Closest finishes in the history of the Great American Race Two years later, at the age of 50, Martin challenged Jimmie Johnson for what is now known as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship, winning five races and claiming seven pole positions. Martin led the standings after each of the opening three Chase races, only to finish runner-up to Johnson, a seven-time winner on the year. It marked the fifth and final time Martin was a championship runner-up in an amazing 20-year span of his career. It is a remarkable accomplishment and something he says he is at last comfortable enjoying, free of any near-miss regret. "I never scored enough points to win one, and that's that," Martin said, when asked about it last week. "I would have won one if I had scored more points than anyone else. … and I let that take an enormous amount of joy (from me). "It's something I let go of and I refuse to allow that to rob me of joy. I have a lot to be thankful of, be grateful for. I accomplished a lot in my career and I’m not sour about the things I didn't accomplish." The attitude accompanies good reason -- because by all standards Martin accomplished so much and is admired by so many. Later this week, he will be fittingly celebrated in all the glory he deserves for a career that showed everyone what hard work and mental focus could produce. Forever more, Mark Martin shall be known and introduced as a NASCAR Hall of Famer. "It means more than anything I achieved while I was racing because I was so busy racing, anything I achieved I never paid attention to," Martin said. "I was just storming ahead worried about how I would win the next race. "Now that I've had some time to soak it in, it's the last big deal, the big win, the crown jewel of my career. "Don't forget the people in the Hall of Fame are my heroes, the founders of the sport, the real men that did it with their bare hands. I'm a little bit uncomfortable going in there with them, to be honest with you, because I don't feel like I belong in that kind of company." Perhaps once he stands on stage -- properly celebrated and duly honored -- Martin will accept that he is absolutely a part of that good company. The best. &amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;gt;
Ford Performance announces NASCAR driver development program
Ford Performance announced Thursday another major push in its NASCAR initiative, launching a driver development program ahead of the 2017 season. The first phase includes an agreement with Brad Keselowski Racing, placing new Ford signee Chase Briscoe in a full-time ride in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series . Ford Performance indicated that other stages of the driver development program would be announced at a later time. The program is designed to cultivate home-grown talent for all Ford teams in NASCAR. According to the news release, current teams will be consulted about driver selection and placement, but their contractual ties will reside with Ford, which will also use signees in product development and testing. "We're making a commitment to win long-term in NASCAR," Dave Pericak, Ford Performance's global director, said in a release provided by the manufacturer. "We have been increasing our engineering support and our technological development at the team level, and now we're looking to work with our teams to find the best available drivers coming up in the sport." The move further strengthens the ties with the automaker and team owner Brad Keselowski , which will field Ford trucks full-time for Austin Cindric and now Briscoe this season. Briscoe, a 22-year-old Indiana native with a rich sprint-car racing pedigree, landed the ARCA championship in 2016, riding a six-win season to the series crown . "This is a big day in the history of BKR," Keselowski said in the news release. "To be recognized as a true partner to Ford and Ford Performance and what they are trying to do speaks directly to the hard work our team has put in over the last several years. It is an honor, frankly, and it is really what BKR is all about -- providing young, talented drivers with championship-caliber equipment to continue to hone their craft and showcase their talents. "We have been fortunate to have had a lot of success together with Ford across the three major NASCAR touring series and to now elevate that relationship in an official capacity is a testament to what we set out to do." The move marks the second significant boost for Ford's racing program ahead of the season. Stewart-Haas Racing 's four-car organization has joined the Blue Oval camp for 2017, helping Ford Performance increase its numbers in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series garage. That expansion also included the birth of a NASCAR XFINITY Series program for SHR, with Cole Custer competing full-time and Kevin Harvick driving on a part-time basis. </p>
Crown Hamlin as the king of Halloween
RELATED: More Inside Groove blog content It appears that part of Denny Hamlin 's in-race diatribe on Jimmie Johnson ... uh, is sort of true. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver blasted "Six-Time" on the scanner when trying to make a pass Sunday at Martinsville. ( You can listen to all of that here .) Among the choicest lines: "He thinks he's a (expletive) king." Well, Jimmie, who won Sunday's race, was a king on Monday. In fact, his whole family was royalty in a Halloween photo. All of which led to the below jovial jab from Mr. Hamlin. The life of a father with daughters! #HappyHalloween pic.twitter.com/wpFUgVPmud — Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) October 31, 2016 Yea I knew you wore a damn crown to bed. https://t.co/Ptz614qidN — Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) November 1, 2016 Well done, Denny. But "Six-Time" was quick to fire back. Yea I knew you wore damn floppy ears to bed @dennyhamlin . pic.twitter.com/0X0Ks26HWY — Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) November 1, 2016 Another classic. Call this one a draw?
Truex Jr. celebrates second crown jewel win of 2016
Martin Truex Jr. celebrates in Victory Lane at Darlington Raceway after winning the Bojangles' Southern 500, his second crown jewel victory of 2016.
Jason Redman's Indy experience as Crown Royal's 'Your Hero's Name Here' Program winner
Jason Redman recaps his experience at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after being named Crown Royal's 'Your Hero's Name Here' Program winner.
Meet this year's five Crown Royal finalists
Giving back. It's something the five finalists for Crown Royal's annual "Your Hero's Name Here" program have all done without question or hesitancy, whether it's protecting classmates from gunfire, serving in the armed forces or founding a service-dog centered charity to help wounded veterans. They gave back and served as heroes do. And because they gave back, Crown Royal will put a name in lights. One grand prize winner from among the deserving, heroic five finalists will be etched in history with naming rights to the 23rd annual Brickyard 400, which takes place July 24 at famed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway . This race will mark the 10th time Crown Royal has awarded race-naming rights to an adult fan. The program focuses on all of the unsung heroes who make a difference in their communities, from firefighters and police officers to first responders and local volunteers. Every year five heroic finalists are nominated and through fan voting, and one winner is chosen to have their name cemented in sports history. Beginning this week, adult consumers can go to CrownRoyalHeroes.com to vote for the hero they think is most deserving of naming rights to the race. Voting runs through June 9 and the grand prize winner will be announced that month. See below for their names and bios. All five finalists will be flown to Indianapolis to attend the race, and the grand prize winner will be provided with a once-in-a-lifetime experience, which will include delivering the trophy bearing his or her moniker to the race winner in Victory Lane. The Brickyard 400 is one of the landmark NASCAR races every season. Since 1994, the group of big-name race winners includes the likes of Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson . Previous Crown Royal grand prize winners who had the race named after them are: Curtiss Shaver (2012), Samuel Deeds (2013), John Wayne Walding (2014) and Jeff Kyle (2015)
Crown Royal Heroes: Jason Redman
Check out Crown Royal Heroes nominee Jason Redman. One of these five finalists will receive naming rights to the 2016 Crown Royal Presents the “Your Hero’s Name Here” 400 at the Brickyard.
Martin calls selection 'the crown jewel' of his career
RELATED: Photos from the induction day Mark Martin told the tale more than once on NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Day this week, about his connection to fellow inductee Benny Parsons. Martin was a teenager -- "a nobody," as he termed it -- with racing dreams carved from his earliest days of wheeling cars on dirt. Parsons, in the prime of his driving career in the mid-1970s, took time for the Arkansas youngster and his father, sharing advice over lunch in his hometown of Ellerbe, North Carolina. Talk about a follow-through. Martin, 57, joined Parsons among the five chosen for induction in the NASCAR Hall of Fame's Class of 2017. "It hasn't soaked in yet," Martin said by telephone Wednesday after the Hall's announcement. "I didn't expect it. It is, by far, the crown jewel of my career and I'm so grateful for the people that helped me get there." Martin wasn't in Charlotte to hear his name called; instead, he was on his way to Indianapolis, reasoning that he wouldn't be among the five inductees this year. Martin was named on 57 percent of the voting panel's ballots, third-most among the 20 nominees. Still, he took the unexpected nature of being selected to heart, saying, "If I would've been on the voting panel, I would've probably voted another way." Martin's credentials -- both his success and his longevity across four decades in NASCAR competition -- eventually won out in just his second year on the ballot. Martin won 40 times in NASCAR's top division and combined for 56 more victories in its other two national series. But Martin acknowledged the gaps in his resume, those that he came heart-wrenchingly close to achieving. Among those were his five runner-up finishes in the championship standings and his 0-for-29 career streak in the Daytona 500 , the sport's most prestigious race. After Wednesday's accomplishment, Martin said that Hall of Fame induction fills any potential voids. "Look, I don't have a Daytona 500 trophy and I don't have a championship trophy, and I said many times that when people would complain about my not having one of those, I would ask the question: 'How would my life be different if I had one?' " Martin said. "And I truly believe that my life would not be very different. But my life will be different from now on because I'm in that Hall, because that is my crown jewel. "That speaks of not one year worth of success, not one great achievement, but a body of work, and that's what I'm proud of."
Crown Royal Heroes: Piper Hill
Check out Crown Royal Heroes nominee Piper Hill. One of these five finalists will receive naming rights to the 2016 Crown Royal Presents the “Your Hero’s Name Here” 400 at the Brickyard.