Teamwork could again play a factor in helping a driver advance in the Chase

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TALLADEGA, Ala. – Chase Elliott said it best Friday morning at Talladega Superspeedway.

“It’s great to have teammates, especially when you come to the plate tracks,” Elliott said any of potential race strategy. “We have seen groups or teams work together in the past to try to help a guy have a good run or help an organization to have a good run as a whole.”

Sunday, Elliott may need to rely on one of his teammates, Jimmie Johnson, to advance in the Chase. Elliott enters the Sunday’s race 25 points out of the final transfer spot. Johnson has already locked himself into the next round.

Elliott expects the two to sit down later this weekend to discuss how they can help each other.

“I think the biggest thing is just to not hurt one another,” Elliott said. “At the end of the day you can be in situations, and it can be hard to help somebody so to speak, but there are sometimes where you could hurt them a lot easier. So I think just trying to avoid the hurt side of that and just be as helpful as you can be without getting yourself in trouble.”

Stewart-Haas Racing finds itself in a similar situation. A win last weekend at Kansas Speedway advanced Kevin Harvick in the Chase, while teammate Kurt Busch is fifth on the Chase grid. Busch has a 17-point advantage on the final transfer spot.

Team owner Tony Stewart, eliminated after the first round of the Chase, admitted he has one agenda for his last Talladega race.

“All I care about is Kurt,” Stewart said Thursday during a Mobil 1 media event. “That’s the only one I care about this weekend. (Toyota) They won’t help us, so why would we help them? That’s the scenario that it’s been put into. I’m only worried about him. Kurt’s the only one I’m worried about now. I’ll sit in the back, and I’ll cruise, and that way if they have a bad pit stop or get disconnected from the pack, I’ll be back there to pick him up and make sure we get him back where he needs to be.
“You see it and see how it plays out most of the time better than I do there. It’s got the potential to be really chaotic because of the cutoff this week. There’s a lot of guys who had a bad week who are having to make up for it. I don’t think it’s going to be a very calm, peaceful race this weekend. I think there’s going to be a lot happening.”

The goal for the likes of Elliott and Johnson, as well as Stewart and Busch, will be to replicate what Team Penske accomplished in 2014. Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski perfected their teamwork in the Talladega cutoff race to advance both cars in the Chase.

Logano was already locked into the third round while Keselowski was in a must-win situation. The two controlled much of the race by drafting together and working every lane the pack formed. As the race wound down, Logano and Keselowski were not only at the front of the field, but Logano played blocker for his teammate. Keselowski won.

“Brad was in a do-or-die situation, and I was locked in, so our main goal was to get Brad through,” Logano said of that race. “That was our goal. There was a lot of talk about how we help each other and how we can put him in position to make the moves at the end of the race. I gave him my commitment that I was going to be there for him. I was going to push him along. I was going to do everything that I knew how to do to help him win.”

Logano and Keselowski will be in a different situation Sunday as neither has locked into the Round of 8. Logano is in the final transfer spot, tied with Austin Dillon, who’s ninth. Keselowski is 11th on the Chase grid, six points out of a transfer spot.

“That situation will happen throughout a lot of other teams this week, but it’s something Brad and I need to have an understanding that, ‘Hey, yeah, we’re going to help each other as much as we can, but we both kind of have to win,’ ” Logano said. “It’s a little bit different than (the 2014) race, but at the same time, we’re good teammates. We’re going to race each other, and we’re going to help each other like we do every single week.”

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Liberty University back as primary sponsor for William Byron’s jump to Xfinity Series

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Photo courtesy JR Motorsports
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William Byron is an A-plus student in Liberty University’s eyes.

That’s why the private Virginia school will return in 2017 as primary sponsor for Byron, a freshman at the school, as he is promoted to the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

The 19-year-old Byron, who will drive for JR Motorsports, made the announcement on a Facebook Live stream Monday.

Liberty sponsored Byron last season in the Camping World Truck Series, where he was a runaway winner for Rookie of the Year, earning a series-high seven wins and finished fifth in the final season standings.

In addition, Byron set a Truck Series rookie record not only with his seven wins, but also with 11 top-five and 16 top-10 finishes.

Byron will once again carry the school’s colors in 2017 as he jumps to NASCAR’s junior league. Liberty will be primary sponsor on Byron’s No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro for 17 of the Xfinity season’s 33 races, and will serve as an associate sponsor for the other 16 races.

“Welcoming back both William and reuniting with Liberty University, it feels like a homecoming for us,” JR Motorsports general manager Kelley Earnhardt Miller said. “It’s remarkable to see how quickly William has advanced his talents since he drove for our Late Model team (2014-15). With the support from Liberty, we have a strong platform for him to have success at the Xfinity level.”

Liberty University will be on Byron’s car in his first career start in the Xfinity Series in its season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 25.

Also, it was announced Dave Elenz will serve as Byron’s crew chief in 2017. Elenz spent the last two seasons as crew chief for JRM’s No. 88 Xfinity Series team, leading it to four wins with drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chase Elliott and Kevin Harvick.

“It’s a privilege to have Liberty University on board with us in 2017,” Byron said. “I’m also looking forward to working with Dave. He brings a lot to the table in terms of experience and leadership in this series. That will go a long way in helping our No. 9 team on the track this year.”

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Hooters joins Chase Elliott sponsorship program for 2017-18

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Chase Elliott has added a new high-profile sponsor for the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

Hendrick Motorsports announced Monday that the Hooters restaurant chain will serve as primary sponsor for two races in each of those seasons, as well as serve as a associate sponsor for all of the other races in both seasons on Elliott’s No. 24 Chevrolet SS in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

Elliott’s two races with Hooters primary sponsorship this season will be May 7 at Talladega and Nov. 12 at Phoenix.

Hooters has had a long sponsorship history in NASCAR, with its colors gracing cars for over 150 Cup-level races over the years. Most prominent was the 1992 season when it served as primary sponsor on Alan Kulwicki’s championship-winning Ford.

Ironically, Kulwicki beat Elliott’s father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, by 10 points to win that season’s championship.

“Twenty-five years after being part of one of the most memorable seasons in NASCAR history, Hooters is excited to support another amazing talent in Chase Elliott and the No. 24 team,” Hooters chief marketing officer Carl Sweat sweat said in a media release.

Elliott earned Cup Series rookie of the year honors in 2016, with 10 top-five finishes, 17 top-10s and two pole positions.

“Hooters has a historic place in this sport, and I’m glad they’re back,” Chase Elliott said. “Our entire team is looking forward to making the program a success.”

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Lady Antebellum to highlight Daytona 500 pre-race show

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Photo courtesy Daytona International Speedway
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Seven-time Grammy Award winners Lady Antebellum will highlight the Feb. 26 pre-race show for this year’s Daytona 500, Daytona International Speedway officials announced Monday.

The multi-platinum CD-selling country trio will take the stage not only prior to the 2017 season-opening and 59th edition of the Great American Race, but also the first race under Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series entitlement sponsorship.

Lady Antebellum – made up of Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood – will be on hand to promote its sixth album, Heart Break, which is due for release on June 9, with the first single being “You Look Good,” which will be the cornerstone to kick off a six-country “You Look Good World Tour.”

Lady Antebellum is no stranger to DIS: they performed a pre-race concert prior to the 2008 Coke Zero 400 and also played at last year’s inaugural Country 500 Music Festival.

“’The Great American Race’ will have one of today’s great American country music acts front-and-center for our fans to enjoy,” DIS President Chip Wile said in a statement. “Lady Antebellum continues a long-standing DIS tradition of attracting major stars from the world of entertainment to the ’World Center of Racing’ and the Daytona 500.”

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Brad Keselowski Racing announces crew chief assignments

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Brad Keselowski Racing has announced the crew chiefs that will be paired with both of its full-time rookie drivers this season in the Camping World Truck Series.

Austin Cindric, driving the No. 19 Draw-Tite Ford, will work with Doug Randolph. Randolph has been a crew chief for BKR since 2012 and has six wins, including three with Tyler Reddick in the last two seasons. Randolph also has four Xfinity Series wins.

Mike Hillman Jr. will be the crew chief for Chase Briscoe in the No. 29 Cooper Standard Ford. Hillman is a two-time Truck series champion as crew chief for Todd Bodine (2006, 2010). He has 20 Truck Series wins, the last coming in 2013 with Jeb Burton.

“Austin Cindric has already had success in various forms of racing, and has shown a lot of potential in our Ford F-150 race trucks,” said Keselowski in a press release. “I certainly believe that Chase is ready to take the next step in his career, and we’re excited to have him join the BKR family. He won the ARCA championship in his first full-time season, and he’s proven to have the ability to learn quickly and win races. We’re pleased to give both Austin and Chase the opportunity to compete full-time at a high level in NASCAR.”

Briscoe, 22, enters his rookie season after winning the ARCA Racing Series title behind six race wins.

“It’s an absolutely huge opportunity and such an honor to drive for Brad,” said Briscoe in a press release. “The competition level in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is so high, but I’m going to be in the best equipment out there. It’s really cool to once again be working with the Keselowski family. When I moved to North Carolina three years ago, I was helping Brian and Bob in their shop, so things have come full circle. I’m truly blessed with this opportunity, and I hope to make the most of it. At the end of the day, it’s all about winning races and championships, and that’s what I plan to do.”

Cindric, 18, is the son of Team Penske president Tim Cindric. He has six starts with BKR over the last two seasons. His best result is 15th last November at Phoenix International Raceway.

“This is a massive opportunity from Brad and everyone at BKR who trusts me and believes in my abilities as a driver to move on to the next level for a full season,” said Cindric in a press release. “2017 gets more and more exciting for me with every day that goes by. I’ve only done a handful of one-off races in my brief stock car career, so I’m really looking forward to having the same guys by my side week in and week out. I’ve spent a lot of time at the shop the last few weeks and I know everyone is really excited to get back racing.”

The Truck Series season begins Feb. 24 at Daytona International Speedway.

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