Career-Year Finally Nets Titles For Robertson

Career-Year Finally Nets Titles For Robertson

Wins Super Late Model Title At Colorado National & State Crown

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It took a bit longer than he would have liked, but Darren Robertson is finally able to call himself a champion.

Robertson, 31, secured his first NASCAR track championship this year at Colorado National Speedway in Dacono, Colorado. It was a long time coming for the third-generation racer, who also secured the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Colorado championship this season.

“It feels great obviously,” said Robertson. “I’ve come close to winning both of them many, many times and this is the first time for both of them. It’s definitely like a weight off my shoulders, really. We’ve been second and had really good years going and something stupid has happened. A wreck, broken motors and part failures or something.”

That didn’t happen this year as Robertson put together one of the best seasons of his career at Colorado National. Robertson won five times and rarely finished off the podium, allowing him to capture the track championship by 33 points over Jace Hansen.

The Colorado championship came as a result of that same consistency. In 13 starts atColorado National, Robertson finished inside the top-five 12 times and collected 13 top-10 finishes. He also finished fourth at I-25 Speedway in Pueblo, Colorado. That allowed him to best Hansen for the Colorado championship by 39 points.

U.S. state and province champions are determined by the best 18 finishes at tracks within the respective state or province.

By claiming his first track championship, Robertson joined his grandfather, Odie, and his father, Jerry, as a track champion at the .375-mile asphalt oval. If the name Jerry Robertson sounds familiar, it’s because he was instrumental in the formation of the powerhouse Furniture Row Racing team, which now competes in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

“Barney (Visser, Furniture Row owner) actually bought a race car, a modified, and he had no racing experience,” the younger Robertson explained. “He bought a modified in 2004 and he was referred over to my dad’s shop to have it worked on so he could fit in the seat. He’s a big guy, he’s tall, so he needed the foot box extended and the seat moved back. 

“My dad worked on his car and they just kind of became friends. Barney asked my dad what his goals were and my dad told him. My dad didn’t know that he was (the owner of) Furniture Row. My dad told him and a couple weeks went by and then he and my dad flew to Charlotte and bought some cars and they started Furniture Row Racing. My dad drove for them for the next three years in what is now the XFINITY Series.”

Following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, both of whom are members of the Colorado Motorsports Hall of Fame, is something the younger Robertson says came naturally. 

“Naturally since I grew up I watched him race,” Robertson said. “When I got about 13, 14 or 15 years old I started working in the shop with him. Naturally I loved it, so naturally I got into it. 

“He’s real proud,” Robertson continued. “He helps us work on the car and gives us ideas on what to do. He’s there to lean on when I have questions at the race track. He’s definitely involved and proud.”

Robertson has had championship caliber seasons before, including in 2007 when he won seven times, but a change in the championship format bit him at the end of the year and cost him a chance at his first championship.

“In 2007, we won seven features out here and we had a 100 point lead over second place and the track did a chase format with the last five races,” Robertson recalled. “I won the first one, finished third in the second one and in the third race I got involved in a wreck and that completely eliminated me out of the points. We feel like we would have won that one for sure had it been a normal points situation.”

Close calls like that fueled Robertson, whose No. 11 was sponsored by Automatic Garage Door Inc., Palomino Industries, Alreco Aluminum Surplus, to keep chasing championships. This year he finally succeeded and he has earned the opportunity to travel to Charlotte, North Carolina, for the NASCAR HomeTracks Awards on Dec. 8 at the Charlotte Convention Center at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

“Obviously being able to go down to Charlotte, where the racing hub is, is exciting,” Robertson said. “To be recognized and go to ceremonies…we got the email about what the dress code is and it sounds like a pretty formal dinner and ceremony. It’ll be fun and we’re all looking forward to that, for sure.”

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NASCAR: Kenseth Closes Career with Classy Can-Am 500 Victory

Matt Kenseth delivers a stirring emotional victory in the Can-Am 500 at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday (Photo: Sherri Swann-Bottano/Motorsports Unplugged)

Matt Kenseth delivers a stirring emotional victory in the Can-Am 500 at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday (Photo: Sherri Swann-Bottano/Motorsports Unplugged)

In likely his final NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway, Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, smoothly slid past Chase Elliott with less than 10 laps remaining in Sunday’s Can-Am 500, spoiling Elliott’s potential Cinderella ticket to the Championship 4 playoff finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

For the former Cup Champion Kenseth, the victory was a stellar way to put a ribbon on his Hall of Fame racing career, as he busted a 51-race winless drought.  Kenseth certainly soaked in the Victory Lane celebration, with both smiles and tears of joy.

“It couldn’t be any sweeter,” shared Kenseth, who confirmed what everyone saw coming, namely that he would be stepping away from racing in 2018, primarily due to shortage of sponsorship to fund a championship caliber ride.  Kenseth continued, “We got one race left and (this is) a great way to go out.  I’ve been so incredibly blessed my whole career to have had so many great people work with me.”

The Can-Am 500 semifinal race showcased the best of NASCAR, with classy tributes and fresh, robust racing in full effect:

The rising talent among the sport’s future stars indeed shines bright, with both Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney running in the top 10 most of the day, and each just coming up short of punching their Championship ticket to Homestead.

Just missing his ticket to Homestead, Chase Elliott exudes class by congratulating Matt Kenseth immediately afterward in Gatorade Victory Lane (Photo: Sherri Swann-Bottano/MotorsportsUnplugged)

Chase Elliott exudes class by congratulating Matt Kenseth immediately afterward in Victory Lane (Photo: Sherri Swann-Bottano/Motorsports Unplugged)

Both these young guns carried themselves with the noble pedigree of their racing families, appealing to legions of new fans following their every move both on track and in the garage at Phoenix.  Blaney flashed his raw talent by qualifying on the pole, and Elliott whipped fans into a frenzy with an eruption of cheers rivaling those typically reserved for Dale Earnhardt Jr, as he ripped the lead from Denny Hamlin with a flurry of bold racing moves in the late stages of the race.

Most impressively, both Elliott and Blaney made classy trips to victory lane to congratulate Kenseth on his win and commend him for his driving prowess.  Kenseth responded to their overtures by saying, “It was pretty neat to have a lot of your peers come and congratulate you, and even at the end to be able to drive by all the fans and … actually hear them yelling over the car and hear them in the window,” Kenseth declared.  “I mean, it was just a really, really special day for a lot of reasons.”

Brad Keselowski barely points his way into the Championship 4 finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but recognizes that his Penske Racing Team will need to step up their game if he is to claim his second title. (Photo: Sherri Swann-Bottano/MotorsportsUnplugged)

Brad Keselowski recognizes that his Penske Racing Team will need to step up their game if he is to claim his second title. (Photo: Sherri Swann-Bottano/Motorsports Unplugged)

Fighting an ill-handling car and mired in traffic, Brad Keselowski clawed his way to a 16th-place finish in Sunday’s Can-Am 500, securing the last spot to join Martin Truex Jr, Kevin Harvick, and Kyle Busch to run for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship.  Keselowski grasped that he had dodged the elimination bullet, and grimaced after the race knowing the formidable challengers that await him at next Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“We overcame a lot of obstacles and jumped a lot of hurdles today,” shared Keselowski.  “I’m glad I don’t have to relive this day, that is for sure.  I am just looking forward to going to Homestead.  This feels a little bit like Christmas.”

Overshadowed by the playoff drama were several stout finishes by drivers eliminated in earlier playoff rounds, including Chip Ganassi Racing’s Jamie McMurray, who finished 6th, right behind last week’s winner and reigning Phoenix master Kevin Harvick, as well as Roush Fenway Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr who finished 8th.  With dominant storylines linked to playoff advancement, these purged drivers often fall below the radar in terms of media coverage.

Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, battled in close proximity with Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Stewart-Hass Ford, throughout the day (Photo: Sherri Swann-Bottano/MotorsportsUnplugged)

Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevy, battled in close proximity with Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Stewart-Hass Ford, throughout the day (Photo: Sherri Swann-Bottano/Motorsports Unplugged)

Having transformed into the jewel of the desert, Phoenix Raceway has emerged as the must-see stopover with yet another sold-out crowd.  For fans, this racing experience will escalate in 2018, as the track is progressing rapidly forward on its nearly $180 million renovation project with many changes already on display.  Beginning January 2018, Phoenix Raceway will be known as ISM Raceway, thanks to a multi-year partnership with ISM Connect, a pioneer in smart venue technology.

A circuit reconfiguration will result in the current backstretch becoming the frontstretch, with the start-finish line moving just beyond the renowned “dogleg” segment, ideally creating a rousing racing curve.  New suites, midway, grandstands, and a reimagined infield will offer fans unprecedented access, including direct viewing of garage activity and the drivers’ pre-race meeting, combined with the first motorsports venue to have Wi-Fi throughout the facility.  If you’re considering coming to Zoomtown USA, buy your tickets early or be disappointed.

By Ron Bottano

Let’s connect on Twitter at @rbottano.

 

Darling Dominates at Seekonk

Darling Dominates at Seekonk

Scores Eight Wins En Route To Fifth Track Title

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — After a few years off from from the top of Seekonk Speedway’s Pro Stock division, David Darling returned to his prime form in 2017 at the Massachusetts’ track. In 16 races as part of the NASCAR Whelen All American Series Division I class, Darling went to Victory Lane eight times and only finished outside the top five twice. He captured the checkered flag in the final four points races, completing a dream season in style. 

“There was a lot of work in the winter to get there, we brought on someone to help us, Jeff Belyea, he really helped us figure these new-style (Super Late Model) setups out. We bought a brand new car and we put that together over the winter and we went to the track with a gameplan of making sure we had the best of everything we could,” Darling said of his season. “We put the money in the places we thought was best and we went to the track ready to compete every week, planning to be the fastest car. If you can do that, you can make your job easier as a driver and as a team. You still can’t control the outcome of the races and the luck and you never know how fast you actually will be. We obviously had some luck fall in our way in certain situations in order for us to have a good year.”

Darling season included a finish inside the top 10 each week and most of the time, he was battling at the front when the race came to a close. Although his season was filled with glory, it wasn’t as easy as it would look from the outside. Seekonk’s Super Late Model contingent is one of the best in New England, as Darling acknowledges. Ryan Vanasse and Tom Scully Jr., who finished second and third in points, both visited Victory Lane and gave Darling everything he could handle. 

“It’s extremely difficult to pass, they are pretty fast there too,” Darling said. “You have to be so much faster than someone else to be able to get by them and there were some weeks we weren’t able to get by them. Vanasse and Scully Jr. both had championship years in all measures and they really forced my hand and I forced their hand into being as consistent as I possibly could be. Whoever was going to win this title knew they were going to have to finish just about top five every week. Every year we look to finish every week as the initial goal, then the second goal is finishing top 10 and the third goal is running top five. Once I get there, I just see what happens. 

His fifth track title is also his first under the NASCAR Whelen All American Series banner. In Seekonk’s history, Darling joins names like Ron Bouchard, Rick Hanatow Jr., Rick Martin, Vinnie Annarummo and others to have at least five championships. He never thought the day would come. 

“That was the goal, we wanted to get a title under the NASCAR sanction and I’m excited to be going down to the North Carolina. When I first started running Seekonk, you would try to rush to the front and you would end up in a wreck. When the race starts, I just try to finish and take what I can get. About three or four weeks into the year we realized we were fast and so were the others and I thought it would come down to who would make a mistake first and really, no one did,” Darling said. “The competition level was high and everyone respected each other — I was the only one that really made a mistake the night I spun myself out racing for the lead. To be able to race door-to-door with them and have their respect, it made it a great year. We had respect back and fourth. We ran a tight championship battle. I know people will say that I dominated, but when you look at their performances, the only difference was really the wins, if I didn’t get those, who knows who would have won the championship. It really forced me to go after more wins than I normally would.”

Darling credits the success this season to his team. He has been working with Ronnie Pond, his longtime crew chief, for all five of his championship runs. The decision to bring on Jeff Belyea was also a huge help to the team.

“Jeff and I have been friends for over 10 years and he has always helped various other people. He helped Angelo Belsito when he won his title. It got to the point where these cars are just super complicated, much different than it was years ago. Ronnie Pond has been doing it for 40 years and the way he did it before is a little bit different now, but he still brings a ton to my team,” Darling said. “Between him and Jeff, they come up with some great thought processes to make the car go well. With Jeff running the PASS Tour as much as he has, he has a great handle on what he is doing. He gives you a great starting point to be really close, or spot on right when you unload the car from the trailer.”

Although Darling’s four titles before this came with the same car, this one was different. The decision to go out and buy a new car wasn’t easy for him — and it wasn’t a cheap endeavor either. He needed the support of longtime car owner Gary Johnson if it was going to happen. 

“It means a lot, I never thought I would really end up racing at Seekonk very long. It came to a point a couple of years ago when the equipment was getting older and we decided we needed new shop equipment and new cars because the stuff we were running for a decade was just worn out. Gary Johnson has been with me the whole time and he always has given us what we need. I came into it and put some of my money in and with sponsors we went out and purcahsed some current equipment and it makes a huge difference,” Darling said.

“They need to be a certain type of car. The technology is so different — it was a big cost factor — but it was something I needed to do in order to get back to being competitive — it was either that or we had to decide to fold up shop and stop doing it. It’s like a little bit different with Gary and I being part-owner. For years, Gary gave us what we needed for those four titles. The cars we had still worked because the technology we had really hadn’t changed. Once the Super Late Model technology trickled down to Seekonk, we realized what we were doing wasn’t going to be good enough. Four of the championships were with the same car, but the first two were completely different setups than the second two and this one was a completely different car and different setup. To see the way everything changes over the years, we were able to change with it and still keep the same core of guys. The week in and week out gets tough, but it’s almost second-nature now.”

Darling is lucky enough to have the support of his family to do what he loves to do. In fact, his children have become attached to the track and watching their dad be successful. 

“My kids love going and my wife likes going, the kids really love to cheer me on. This is one of the first titles that my kids will remember, they don’t really remember the older championships. The kids really do love it. If they weren’t as interested, it would probably make it easier for me to walk away — if they weren’t there I would feel bad I wasn’t spending enough time with them,” Darling said. “I asked them about four or five years ago if they wanted me to stop racing so we could go do sports — they asked me what I was thinking, of course they wanted me to race. Sometimes things happen on the track and they pay a lot of attention to it, so I have to explain things. This really kinda cements a certain driving style for me. In the heat of the moment, I remember that they are watching or listening.”

Is it too early to look ahead towards the 2018? Maybe a little bit. But Darling knows the work isn’t done for him if he wants to complete another title run in 2018. His four previous titles came in 2006-07, then 2012-13. He will be looking to continue that streak of winning two at a time. 

“Now it’s just kinda like how are we going to get quicker, because we know everyone else is going too. There are some weeks I felt like we could have been better and there were other weeks I felt like it was going to be tough to improve on that. Sometimes you get a car that’s like this,” Darling said. “We are building a new car but who knows if we will even race it. Having a car like that gives you great confidence, but everyone else is going to do that homework for them to get faster.”

Without support from sponsors, his family and his team, as well as the fans, he wouldn’t be able to accomplish his goals. 

“I have to thank Gary and Johnson Landscaping, Bristol Toyota, my dad, Columbus Oil Energies, Ronnie Pond, Jeff Belyea, my wife, my kids and there are a lot of other people that show up every week as fans,” Darling said. “Also all the guys on the crew. Todd Annarummo helped us a lot this year. There are just so many people that go into this. I have to thank everyone that supports us every week and all the fans that come out to watch the races.”

Darling will be honored as part of the NASCAR Home Tracks Awards ceremony on Dec. 8 at the Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.

David Darling’s road to a fifth track title included winning the final four points races of the season. Seekonk Speedway

Myers & Loftin Set For Return

Myers & Loftin Set For Return

Will Run Partial Schedule On Whelen Modified Tour With Harvey

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Two former NASCAR modified champion drivers will be back in Whelen Modified Tour competition in 2018. 

In an announcement made by champion car owner Eddie Harvey on Friday morning, Burt Myers and Brian Loftin will team with Harvey to compete in a partial schedule next season, planning to run 8-10 races. Both drivers are former champions of the Whelen Southern Modified Tour and Harvey was a multiple-time championship car owner on the Southern Tour as well.

“It’s pretty neat having two Southern Modified Tour champions come on board to our team,” Harvey said. “Being that we had two in the past with George Brunnhoelzl III and Andy Seuss, it’s neat to keep champions in the stable.”

Myers was the final champion of the Whelen Southern Modified Tour in 2016, posting three victories and nine top five finishes in 11 races. He also won the series title in 2010 while winning two races. He had 19 career victories on the Southern Tour and 30 pole awards in 12 years of competition. Myers competed with Harvey in the season-finale at Thompson this year, qualifying seventh and finishing 13th — that is where the deal first started. 

“All the stars lined up, it’s just about a perfect pairing,” Harvey said of his deal with Myers. “We just started kicking ideas around on lap two at Thompson. When we were loading up to leave Thompson, it was just about what we needed to do to make this permanent. Burt has a committment to his sponsors to run at Bowman Gray weekly every year but we are going to run the Tour races before Bowman Gray opens and we are going to run the races after Bowman Gray concludes. It all depends on how the schedule looks, we will be running some races next year. We plan to run around 10 races.”

Loftin is a former champion of the Southern Tour, winning the crown in 2008 after scoring four victories that season. In 86 career Southern Tour starts, Loftin scored 12 wins, 40 top fives and 53 top 10s in 10 years of competition. He was also able to post 11 Coors Light Pole awards behind the wheel. His most recent NASCAR modified victory came in 2012 at Caraway Speedway in a race where he defeated L.W. Miller. 

“Brian is a good friend of ours, he is a cousin of one of the key people on my race team,” Harvey said. “Everyone knows Brian went through an unfortunate time with the loss of his wife several years back and he had to step away for a while. But this an opportunity for him to get back in a race car. All the stars lined up for this.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 2018 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series Calendar unveiled!

The 2018 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series Calendar unveiled!

Twelve Rounds In Six NASCAR GP On Top European Tracks

The 2018 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series calendar was unveiled today and features 12 rounds in six American-themed NASCAR GP on the best European tracks cementing Euro NASCAR’s position among the best touring car series outside North America.

Built in continuity with a very successful 2017 season, which saw more than 60 top level drivers representing 21 countries on the grid to battle door to door for the NWES crown and delight hundreds of thousands of fans with the best racing in Europe, the 2018 Euro NASCAR schedule will include 6 different countries: Spain, Italy, Great Britain, France, Germany and Benelux.

A key change is the creation of a new international event that will take place in Tours, France where drivers from all over the world will compete to measure their skills against American guest-stars in the Oval World Challenge. The second major evolution is a new venue for the Semi Finals that will be hosted by the legendary Hockenheimring in Germany, building on the success of the first American Fan Fest.

“We are really proud to offer to European fans, teams, drivers and partners this very well-balanced calendar, a great mix between some of the most iconic names in Motorsports – Hockenheim, Brands Hatch, Valencia and Zolder – and emerging high-action short tracks such as Tours and Franciacorta. We all share a common vision to make every NASCAR GP a unique fan experience and provide great family fun on and around the track. In few years, the NWES events have emerged as some of the best and most attractive in Europe. Pure racing and great fun are in our DNA and we will keep pushing this way!” said NWES President / CEO Jerome Galpin.

Spain and the Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana Ricardo Tormo will once again open the season on April 14-15 with the fourth edition of the Valencia NASCAR Fest, an event that has quickly become a classic in the NWES calendar.

On May 19-20 the Euro NASCAR will head to Brescia for the second event of the season at the Autodromo di Franciacorta. The Italian track’s compact layout provides the fans with a spectacular view and action-packed races.

A new King Of Brands Hatch will be crowned at the historic Indy Circuit in the context of the hugely popular American SpeedFest on June 9-10. One of the most coveted events in the calendar, the British festival is the longest running NWES event and will reach the sixth edition in 2018 

On June 30 and July 1 the city of Tours in France will host the new Oval World Challenge. The sole NASCAR oval race outside of North America will bring tons of excitement to the European fans. A unique prize and a special format for the event will be presented in the upcoming weeks.

For the first time in the Series history, Germany will host the Semi Finals on September 15-16 at Hockenheimring and represent a turning point in the season for the drivers chasing the European NASCAR title by awarding double points.

On October 20-21 the NWES season will once again reach its culmination in Belgium at Circuit Zolder, with the challenging 4 Km track hosting the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series Finals for the fourth consecutive year in front a huge crowd.

Well spread on the map, the 2018 NWES calendar will offer every race fan an opportunity to enjoy the unrivalled atmosphere of a NASCAR GP and grant drivers a variety of racing experiences: from the high speeds of Hockenheim or Zolder to the bumper-to-bumper action of Brands Hatch and  Oval Tours. Only the best of the best will be the 2018 Euro NASCAR champion. Save the dates race fans!

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE 2018 NWES DIGITAL BROCHURE

DISCOVER THE NWES DRIVERS RECRUITMENT PROGRAM

QUOTES FROM THE TRACKS

Gonzalo Gobert – General Manager, Circuit Ricardo Tormo

“We are excited to open again the season of a competition that in just four editions consolidated in our calendar as one of the most original and attractive offers for the fans, for its competitive aspect as well as the peculiarity of the cars. The Valencia Nascar Fest has become the most important car racing event of our sports calendar, it is a privilege for us to be the Spanish event of this championship and to share a calendar with iconic motorsport circuits

Ettore Bonara – Owner, Autodromo di Franciacorta 

“We are really happy to welcome the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series in 2018 and we believe that the May date will be the perfect one for us in the schedule. We have learned a lot in 2017 and we definitely want to offer a bigger and better show to the Italian fans”

David Willey – Motorsport Events Manager, Brands Hatch 

“We’re delighted to welcome back the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series as the centrepiece of our sixth American SpeedFest event at Brands Hatch, which is one of the highlights of our summer calendar. NASCAR epitomises US motorsport and we aim to make next year’s festival the biggest and best celebration yet of everything under the Star-Spangled Banner.”

Jorn Teske – Head of Marketing, Hockenheimring

 “After the brilliant premiere with an exceptionally positive feedback from participants, our partners and above all the fans, we are looking forward to hosting the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series in the next couple of years. Furthermore, we are really proud that the Semi Finals will take place at the Hockenheimring in 2018. It is an appreciated reassurance of the presentation and organization of this year’s American Fan Fest. Our goal is to provide a tight-paced program of motorsports, action and entertainment for fans and families, on and beside the race track.“

Sven Pribylla – General Manager, Circuit Zolder

“We’re happy to host the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series finals again !! Our track and paddock will be ready for the many families who visit these great close races with international heroes!!”

Kraus Nabs Sunoco Rookie of the Year

Kraus Nabs Sunoco Rookie of the Year

Secures Title Over Rodgers After First K&N Pro West Victory

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Derek Kraus had a hard-fought battle to earn the 2017 K&N Pro Series West Sunoco Rookie of the Year title.

While the rookie had a successful rookie season with Bill McAnally Racing amassing one win, nine top-five and ten top-10 finishes, it seemed like fellow rookie Will Rodgers was always right behind him.

“The season went well,” the 16-year-old said. “We had a lot of top five and top three finishes. It was a tight battle with Will throughout the entire season. We had no break. But it helped motivate us and it kept us going throughout the year and we finished on a high note.”

The high-note the Stratford, Wisconsin, native is referring to is his first series career victory at the season finale at California’s Kern County Raceway Park.

“It was great finishing the season that way,” Kraus said. “I learned a lot throughout the season, like what it takes to be competitive, lead laps and ultimately win races. So, to get that victory really got the monkey off our backs.”

Kraus came close to earning his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series West win multiple times throughout the year, but was denied a trip to Victory Lane by Todd Gilliland, the 2017 K&N Pro Series West champion, and Chris Eggleston.

“It was amazing to finally get it done after finishing second or third to our BMR teammates throughout the season. It was the dream way to end my rookie year.

“While I don’t know what my plans are for next season as of now, earning not only my first win but also the Sunoco Rookie of the Year title definitely helps my confidence.”

The newly minted rookie of the year has plenty of people to credit for his success. 

“I wouldn’t have accomplished anything close to this without my parents and the entire BMR team,” Kraus said. “I also have to thank Toyota, Carlyle Tools, Marilyn Fanetti and everyone else who has supported me throughout my racing career.”

D4D Development Team Announced

D4D Development Team Announced

Six Drivers Tabbed to Compete For Rev Racing Next Season

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The youngest NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series champion. The youngest driver to win four Trans-Am championships. And the 2016 Wendell Scott Trailblazer Award winner.

As evidenced by the six drivers announced as part of the 2018 NASCAR Drive for Diversity Development Team, the roster for next year is stacked with emerging young talent ready to make their mark in the sport. The drivers represent a cross-section of backgrounds – both in terms of heritage and driving disciplines – and all share a common goal: To reach the highest levels of NASCAR.

“What we’re seeing with these six drivers is a group of very talented racers who have shown the ability on and off the track to excel at the next level,” said Jim Cassidy, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations. “With an increased focus on seat time and competition among the drivers, we’re looking forward to watching them perform next season.”

“We are thrilled with the level of talent that applied for the program, were invited to the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine and, ultimately, the six who were selected to drive for Rev Racing in 2018,” said Max Siegel, CEO of Rev Racing. “As we’ve seen the program evolve over the years and produce wins and champions, and help elevate drivers such as Daniel Suárez, Kyle Larson and Darrell Wallace Jr. to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, these drivers have the ability and potential to carry that legacy forward.”

The 2018 NASCAR Drive for Diversity roster includes a pair of drivers who have been part of the NASCAR Next program, an industry initiative designed to spotlight the sport’s rising stars.

The new class features the following drivers: 

• Chase Cabre, 20, Tampa, Florida. Cabre finished sixth in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship standings and was runner-up for Sunoco Rookie of the Year. He won the 21 Means 21 Pole Award twice and recorded four top-five finishes. He will return to compete in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and will also race a Late Model in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.

• Ernie Francis Jr., 19, Dania, Florida. Francis has already locked up his fourth Trans Am Series championship, becoming the youngest driver in series history to do so. He has 32 Trans Am Series wins – the most in series history – and 15 Pirelli World Challenge victories. Francis will be a development driver with Rev Racing, running road-course events in the K&N Pro Series East and select Late Model events, as well as testing, as he transitions to oval-track racing.

• Rubén García Jr., 21, Mexico City, Mexico. García will return to Rev Racing for his third season. The 2015 NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series champion finished fifth in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East this year and is third in the PEAK Mexico Series standings with one race remaining. The NASCAR Next graduate will join Cabre in the K&N Pro East in addition to racing in the Late Model.

• Nick Sanchez, 16, Homestead, Florida. Sanchez finished fifth in the 10-race Bojangles Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway with Rev Racing’s Legends Car program last year, and will move up to the team’s full-time Late Model in 2018. Sanchez had a win among five podium finishes in the Summer Shootout.

• Ryan Vargas, 17, La Mirada, California. Vargas won the Wendell Scott Trailblazer Award in 2016 as the highest finishing multicultural or female driver in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division I. He was runner-up for NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Josten’s Rookie of the Year for California in 2016 while racing at Irwindale and Bakersfield’s Kern County Raceway Park and the Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. This season, he scored a pair of wins this year to finish third in the state standings and 16th in the national standings. Vargas will drive in the third full-time K&N Pro Series East car and also race in the Late Model.

• Isabella Robusto, 13, Fort Mill, South Carolina. Robusto will anchor Rev Racing’s Youth Driver Program as she returns to the team to drive in the Legends car. Robusto will be one of four youth development drivers, with the remaining three to be announced at a later date. She was third overall at the Bandolero Winter Nationals and was the South Carolina Legends Young Lions champion in 2016 and was third overall in points in the Bojangles Summer Shootout Series in 2015.

NASCAR Drive for Diversity aligns drivers with a team of executives, athletic directors, crew chiefs and mentors tasked with helping them achieve career successes, and thus improving their goal of reaching one of the three NASCAR national series.

The 2017 NASCAR season was another banner year for NASCAR Drive for Diversity alumni, as three graduates made a major impact at the sport’s highest level. 

Kyle Larson earned four wins to establish his No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing team as a force in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. A contender for Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors, Daniel Suárez this year became the first Mexican-born driver to compete full-time in the sport’s premier series, and in February raced in his first DAYTONA 500. Last month, Darrell Wallace Jr. was announced as the new driver of Richard Petty Motorsports’ iconic No. 43 Ford for the 2018 season. 

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The 2018 NASCAR Drive for Diversity class will compete in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, in Late Models in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series and will have four drivers as part of the youth program racing in the Legends cars. NASCAR via Getty Images.

22 Racing and Tagliani Join Forces Again

22 Racing and Tagliani Join Forces Again

Will Continue Quest for Pinty’s Series Title

MILVERSTO, ON – 22 Racing is pleased to announce today that Alex Tagliani will be back with them in his #18 EpiPen/Lowes/St-Hubert/Spectra Premium sponsored car in 2018.  This will be the fifth year of partnership in the NASCAR Pintys Series between Tagliani and 22 Racing.

Alex has just wrapped up his Teal Pumpkin Project, a Halloween focused initiative to promote Food Allergy Awareness. The campaign saw him drive his #18 EpiPen/Lowes race car through the streets of a suburb of Montreal helping to raise awareness for this very important issue one which he suffers from with his severe nut allergies.

Since Tagliani joined the 22 Racing team to compete in Canada’s only national motorsports touring series, he has posted 5 wins, 4 poles, 16 top 5’s, 32top 10’s with 1,222 laps led bringing his career totals in the NASCAR Pinty’s series to 6 wins, 11 poles and 18 top 5’s.  

“Alex is a fierce competitor and is always working hard to improve himself and his team,” said team owner Scott Steckly.  “We look forward to seeing Alex on the podium with checkered flags again in 2018.”

“I’m very excited to be back with 22 Racing next year,” said Tagliani. “It will be five years together as a team, so it is like a big family now and I enjoy working with the crew as they have become my friends. They are a reflection of Scott who is a great guy and a fantastic team owner and we have done a lot together. We have managed to break a track record in NASCAR by lapping the entire field on an oval track and we finally won GP3R together with Tyler Case as my crew chief, something he wanted to do for a long time as well.  In motorsport everybody is seeking for continuity and stability and I think we have managed this with the help of amazing sponsors like EpiPen, Lowes, Spectra Premium & St Hubert so we are excited to be able to continue our race program.  2017 was not the season we wanted because after the 2016 season having run for a championship we had high hopes. We had a lot of bad luck this year.  We didn’t capitalize on the races we were strong as I made 2 mistakes, so not a clean season but I think we have the potential to run strong.  It should be an exciting winter knowing we are going to push hard for a championship in 2018.  There is still more news to come but exciting day when you know you are going to work with the same group of people again.”

The 2018 schedule has not been released yet, but one event has been announced and it will see the NASCAR Pinty’s Series make its debut outside of Canada at New Hampshire Motor Speedway tentatively on Sept. 20 & 21, 2018.

NASCAR Playoffs: Harvick Takes Down Truex at Texas Speedway

FORT WORTH, TX - NOVEMBER 05: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Mobil 1 Ford, poses with the winner’s decal in Victory Lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 5, 2017 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Kevin Harvick claimed the playoff prize with his victory in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup AAA Texas 500 (Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

When it’s playoff time, Kevin Harvick knows how to lock-in.  On Sunday, Harvick stampeded past Martin Truex Jr to win the AAA Texas 500, clinching his position in the Championship 4 finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in two weeks.  Harvick also checked another track off the list where he had not previously won.

More importantly, Ford (and explicitly Harvick’s Stewart-Haas Racing Team) fired a salvo at Toyota’s dominance, whose teams had won all the playoff races so far (except for the Talladega wildcard).

At the outset, Kurt Busch, a Stewart-Haas teammate, secured the AAA Texas 500 pole with not only a track record qualifying speed approaching 201 MPH, but also the fastest lap at any 1.5-mile intermediate speedway ever, validating that the team’s development work with the switch from Chevrolet to Ford at the beginning of the season is now paying dividends.

During the race, Harvick tracked down Toyota driver Truex Jr with a power move around the outside with just nine laps to go, after loosening Truex up with air at the bumper, extremely impressive given Truex has already won six races at intermediate tracks this year.  Also noteworthy was Harvick completed the pass without spinning Truex out or ramming him from behind.

Harvick explained in victory lane, “I knew I had a really good car.  I knew I had to do something different.  I started driving a whole lot deeper in Turn 1—a whole lot deeper.  I started doing that earlier in the race, but I was afraid I didn’t have the brakes to continue to do that all day.  So, I waited until the end and was able to get on the outside of Martin and got him loose and brushed across the back of him and was able to get by on the outside down there.”

Truex, despite his second-place finish, also clinched his berth in the Championship 4 race based on his playoff points total.  Kyle Busch, last week’s Martinsville winner, is also locked into the Championship 4, leaving only one spot up for grabs at Phoenix among five remaining playoff eligible drivers.  Expect the Zoomtown USA desert race to be blazing, as drivers gamble to secure the final spot.

With Texas hosting playoff races for all three of NASCAR’s main series, several other takeaways stood out.

Downforce Leads to Sizzling Speed

Remember all the aero package rules changes that took downforce out of NASCAR Cup cars at the start of the season? It’s back.

The engineering teams have regained the majority of downforce that was removed, given the blistering qualifying speeds.  Five NASCAR drivers exceeded 200MPH in the final round of qualifying at Texas Motor Speedway.  That’s crazy fast for a 1.5-mile oval, especially since the track was reconfigured with a repave last year that lowered the banking through Turns 1 and 2 so that drivers would have to lift off the throttle.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin, qualifying 2nd on the front row, summarizes tersely, “The biggest thing is just the development, and trust me, I don’t know of any driver that was comfortable running the speeds that we’re running right now.”

Critically, aero push was obvious at the Texas race.  For some fans in the stands, the most entertaining activity was watching lead cars try to pass lapped cars without wadding everybody up, given the absence of on-track passes at the front.  Todd Gordon, crew chief for Penske driver Joey Logano, observed that Logano would drive up through the field to 10th to 15th place and then his car would simply stall out.

during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 5, 2017 in Fort Worth, Texas.

With record speeds at Texas, drivers often experienced aero constraints when trying to pass other cars in the pack (Photo: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Our mid-race Twitter poll of fan reaction reinforced this snooze fest, with almost 60% suggesting the race was a “couch nap”, while only 7% agreeing that the race lived up to the “No Limits” credo of excitement for Texas Motor Speedway.

Undoubtedly, NASCAR needs to reexamine the 2018 rules configuration, or the momentum the sport has shown this year in terms of fan interest may regress just like the number of on-track passes for the lead.

XFINITY Playoffs Sputter

The quandary of Monster Energy Cup drivers dropping down to XFINITY Series races to steal the show is still a thorn in the side of NASCAR’s playoff system expansion to all three series, with the “win and advance” setup.  Despite rule changes curbing some participation, NASCAR Cup drivers continue to claim the checkered flags in the XFINITY playoff races, to the detriment of XFINITY playoff contenders.

Saturday night, the craze continued, just as it has through all five XFINITY playoff races, as the top three finishers were all Cup regulars, with Erik Jones leading 137 of 200 laps in claiming the top spot.  Ryan Blaney finished 2nd, and Kyle Larson claimed the final podium spot in 3rd.

XFINITY races have become two separate competitions within the main event, which chills the excitement when XFINITY playoff contenders can’t get to victory lane.  Surely, this is not what NBC envisioned when the network introduced its novel interview of the race winner right on the front straightaway after crossing the finish line to capture the winner’s excitement.  Instead, these interviews lack passion, with the XFINITY playoff contenders relegated to pit lane commentary on point standings.

The XFINITY Championship 4 for the Homestead-Miami title race is determined next week in Phoenix; right now, there likely will be no magic Cinderella contender that advances based on claiming race victory, so the Champion contenders would instead be set by points, with Elliott Sadler, William Bryon, Justin Allgaier, and Brennan Poole currently holding the four magic slots.  Sadler, the point leader, has yet to win a race this season.

Chevrolet Fading Fast from Championship Spotlight

For the first time under NASCAR’s elimination playoff format, Chevrolet may not have a contending driver in the mix for the Monster Energy Cup Championship.

FORT WORTH, TX - NOVEMBER 05: Chase Elliott, driver of the #24 Hooters Chevrolet, stands on the grid prior to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 5, 2017 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Despite three 2nd place finishes in the playoffs, Chase Elliott heads to Phoenix in a must-win situation (Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

With Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson below the cut line by 49 and 51 points, respectively, these two remaining Hendrick Motorsport playoff contenders are in the basement of the standings.  Either of these Chevy drivers must win at Phoenix to advance to Homestead-Miami, with wild strategy gambles necessary, given the general speed malaise that seems to be afflicting this team.

For Johnson, he finished 27th at Texas and was 3 laps down at one point, at a track where he has won seven times, including the April race earlier this season.  More striking, Johnson, usually the calm and collected seven-time Champion, expressed displeasure:

“We’ve got to figure something out,” Johnson said.  “I’m definitely disappointed.  And, I honestly just feel bad for my team.  These guys are working so hard.  And to work this hard and not see any speed go back in the car and have bad results as the last three weeks have been is pretty disappointing.”

For Chevy, having unveiled the 2018 Camaro ZL1 race car to replace the aging Chevy SS platform after this season, the testing that has shown improved aerodynamic performance cannot come soon enough when the actual cars hit the track next year at Daytona.  We will likely have to wait until then to potentially see a Chevrolet in victory lane.

By Ron Bottano

Let’s connect on Twitter at @rbottano.

Gilliland Goes Back-to-Back

Gilliland Goes Back-to-Back

BMR Teammate Kraus Scores First K&N Pro West Victory

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — On a night where one Bill McAnally Racing teenager earned his first career win, another earned his second career NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship.

Derek Kraus won the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame Championship 150 presented by NAPA Auto Parts at Kern County Raceway Park for his first career NASCAR K&N Pro Series West victory while Todd Gilliland won the 2017 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West title.

The night belonged to NASCAR Next driver Todd Gilliland. He brought his No. 16 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota home in second-place, but it was more than enough to clinch his second straight championship.

“It feels great,” the 17-year-old from Sherrills Ford, North Carolina, said, soaked after a Victory Lane celebration. “All this hard work and dedication these guys put in, and it all comes down to this. To be able to get it done is very special.”

Coming into Kern, Gilliland needed to finish seventh or better, regardless of what teammate and championship rival Chris Eggleston did. Unfortunately for Eggleston, a flat tire on lap 65 forced him to go behind the wall for repairs and fall multiple laps down. He wound up finishing in 20th, three laps down.

“I was pretty confident,” Gilliland said of his mindset throughout the evening. “With the speed we had and the position we were able to ride in, I thought we were going to have a really good shot at the win. Always a little disappointed in that, but I’m very proud of our effort all season long. To be able to come home the 2017 champion two years in a row is really surreal, and we just have to take it all in.”

The title is the eighth in Bill McAnally Racing history and third consecutive (Eggleston in 2015, Gilliland in 2016 and 2017). The last time BMR won three titles in a row was from 1999-2001, when Sean Woodside and Brendan Gaughan (twice) brought home the hardware.

Kraus, Gilliland’s teammate, stopped Gilliland from winning his third consecutive race at Kern. The 16-year-old rookie from Stratford, Wisconsin, took the lead with 44 laps to go and didn’t look back. Kraus’ first career K&N Pro Series West win has been a longtime coming, he earned three runner-up finishes this season and had a win in his grasp multiple throughout the year. Most recently at Idaho’s Meridian Speedway, he had the lead on the final overtime restart, but it slipped away.

“That Meridian race was actually going through my mind those last 30 laps,” Kraus said in Victory Lane next to his No. 19 Carlyle Tools Toyota. “But it’s been a really good night with getting Rookie of the Year and getting a race win, my first race win. That’s really great for me and my career, and will help boost me into next season.”

The win allowed Kraus to clinch the Sunoco Rookie of the Year award over Will Rodgers, who he’d been battling with down the stretch. Kraus finishes the 2017 season with nine top fives, 10 top 10s, one pole and one victory.

Riley Herbst continued the BMR podium sweep finishing third while Michael Self and NASCAR K&N Pro Series East regular Dillon Bassett rounded out the top five.

Derek Thorn, Buddy Shepherd, Will Rodgers, Max Tullman and Nicole Behar completed the top 10.

The West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame Championship 150 is scheduled to air on NBCSN Friday, Nov. 10 at 3:30 p.m. ET.

RACE RESULTS | RACE CENTRAL LIVE

Derek Kraus won his first career NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race at Kern County Raceway Park to end the 2017 season. (Photo by Jonathan Moore/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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