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Dale Jr. shows off latest skeleton-themed helmet for 2017

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A day after revealing his Nationwide paint scheme for 2017, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has shown off the helmet he’ll be wearing next season.

Earnhardt posted a picture of the helmet, designed by artist Nick Pastura, on Twitter.

The dark blue helmet features skeleton figures in cowls. Skeletons are a feature Earnhardt has a fondness for.

While the gloves he wears in races are designed to look like they’re skeleton hands, every year Earnhardt has a different skeleton-themed design on his helmet. Below is the 2017 design, which has a more holographic look than its predecessors. After that, take a look at each helmet design Pastura has created for Earnhardt dating back to 2007.

 

2016

HAMPTON, GA - FEBRUARY 26: A view of the helmet for Dale Earnhardt Jr (not pictured), driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 26, 2016 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)

2015

HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 20: The helmet of Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, sits on top of his car in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

2014

LONG POND, PA - JUNE 06: A detailed view of the helmet of Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway on June 6, 2014 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
 (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

2013

RIDGEWAY, VA - APRIL 06: The helmet of Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet, sits on top of his car in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP Gas Booster 500 on April 6, 2013 at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)
(Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)

2012

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 16: The helmet of Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet, posed during NASCAR Media Day at Daytona International Speedway on February 16, 2012 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

2011

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 10: The helmet of Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet, posed during the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Media Day at Daytona International Speedway on February 10, 2011 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

2009

JOLIET, IL - JULY 09: A general view of the helmet of Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series LifeLock.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on July 9, 2009 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

2008

FORT WORTH, TX - OCTOBER 31: Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, stands on pit road during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on October 31, 2008 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

2007

MARTINSVILLE, VA - MARCH 31: Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #8 Budweiser Chevrolet, puts on his helmet prior to practice for the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Goody's Cool Orange 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 31, 2007 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

ThorSport Racing partners with Ford in Truck Series

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ThorSport Racing has partnered with Ford in a multi-year deal in the Camping World Truck Series, the team announced Monday.

The team’s announcement comes a week after it revealed the mutual decision to part ways with Toyota.

“With 23 years in the NCWTS, we look forward to our new partnership with Ford Performance in NASCAR,” team owner Duke Thorson said in a press release. “Our pursuit of wins and championships remains at the forefront of our objectives.”

ThorSport, based in Sandusky, Ohio, had been paired with the Toyota for six years, winning two titles with Matt Crafton.

“We’re excited that ThorSport Racing has decided to switch to a F-Series truck for the 2018 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance Motorsports in a press release. “ThorSport is a proven championship-level team in the series, and we look forward to providing them the aero and simulation technical support that will ensure they remain at the top level of the Truck Series.”

In 2017, Brad Keselowski Racing fielded the only two full-time Ford entries in the series. That team shut down following the end of the season.

Crafton will be returning to ThorSport for his 17th season – and 14th consecutive – with the team. The rest of the team’s driver lineup will be announced at a later date.

The Truck Series season begins Feb. 16th at Daytona International Speedway.

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D.J. Kennington to attempt to qualify for Daytona 500 with Gaunt Brothers Racing

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Canadian driver D.J. Kennington will try to qualify for the Daytona 500 with Gaunt Brothers Racing for the second year in a row, the team announced Monday.

Kennington, a native of St. Thomas, Ontario, will drive the No. 96 Toyota sponsored by Lordco Auto Parts and Castrol.

The team, sponsor and driver combination made the 2017 edition of the race, making Kennington the first Canadian driver to compete in the Daytona 500 in 29 years.

Kennington started 28th and finished 36th following a multi-car crash at the start of Stage 2.

“Last year was an awesome experience for my sponsors, Lordco and Castrol, and me,” Kennington said in a press release. “We knew once it was over, we wanted to do it again. (Team owner) Marty (Gaunt) and everybody at GBR is pulling out all the stops for us this year. I’m looking forward to getting back behind the wheel of the Lordco/Castrol Toyota Camry and seeing the difference a year makes.”

The 40-year-old driver has five Cup starts with a best finish of 26th in last November’s race at Phoenix.

Gaunt Brothers Racing does not own a charter, meaning Kennington is not guaranteed a starting spot in the Feb. 18 Daytona 500.

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Love’s Travel Stops returns as Front Row Motorsports sponsor

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Front Row Motorsports and Love’s Travel Stops have extended their relationship into a sixth year, the team announced Monday.

The company will sponsor the No. 34 Ford of Michael McDowell in 18 races, including the Feb. 18 Daytona 500.

It will also be on the No. 34 for both races at Texas Motor Speedway, the night race at Bristol Motor Speedway and the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

“We look forward to kicking off another great season in Daytona with Front Row Motorsports and welcoming our new driver of the No. 34 Love’s Ford, Michael McDowell,” said Dave Frankenfield, vice president of marketing for Love’s Travel Stops, in a press release. “(Team owner) Bob Jenkins and (General Manager) Jerry Freeze continue to provide great value and flexibility in our partnership while working tirelessly to put a competitive car on the track each week. They also help create a unique race-day experience that allows our customers and employees to be a part of the Love’s race team.”

The team also announced McDowell, entering his first year with FRM, will be paired with crew chief Derrick Finley. The veteran crew chief has been with the team since 2011 and worked with David Ragan last season.

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New car buoys hopes for Chevrolet to avoid ‘unacceptable’ Cup result last year

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A Chevrolet executive calls it “unacceptable” that the manufacturer did not have a car racing for the Cup championship last year at Homestead-Miami Speedway but says he expects Chevrolet to have “at least a car or two” in the title race this season with the new Camaro ZL1

Pat Suhy, Chevrolet’s NASCAR Group Manager, made the comments Sunday after a luncheon at the National Motorsports Press Association Convention.

Chevrolet had no Cup car finish higher than fifth (Chase Elliott) last year and did not score a win in the 10-race playoffs — Toyota won eight races and Ford two. Toyota won the championship with Martin Truex Jr. and Furniture Row Racing.

“If you look at the car count and just do a ratio of the car count, we were (seven) out of 16 going into the playoffs last year and to not have one make it in the final round was not good,’’ Suhy said.

“I expect us to have at least a car or two in the Final Four this year. There’s no reason we shouldn’t.’’

Suhy and others at Chevrolet are buoyed by the Camaro ZL1 and look to repeat the success Toyota had last season (16 wins in 36 races) with its updated Camry.

Suhy said a key to the Camaro ZL1 is that Chevrolet engineers found ways to move more downforce from the front to the rear of the car.

“As teams make more downforce, they tend to make more and more front downforce, they don’t gain rear downforce as much,’’ Suhy said. “With the old car, as they made more and more front downforce, it got more and more aero loose, so it got harder to keep the car from being too loose and unstable going into the turns.’’

Suhy said that while there were some Chevrolets that were strong last season — Kyle Larson won four races to lead the manufacturer — many teams had a challenge with the setup.

“I would say the loose to relative looseness of the car didn’t feel as comfortable getting into the corners,’’ Suhy said of last year’s car. “So I think a lot of it is really about driver comfort and how they feel going 210 mph down the frontstretch at Michigan and lifting and turning left and having the confidence that the car is actually going to turn left and not lose the front end. I think those are the things this car will help feel more settled, more stable and less twitchy.’’

Any new car can have its struggles. Despite its dominance last year, Toyota won only two of the first 17 races before winning 14 of the final 19.

“I think some of the things that we’ve done with our car and what we’ve done since it was approved, working together with our teams and with the teams working separately, I’d like to think that we’re not going to struggle that badly that early,’’ Suhy said. “I guess we’ll see. We’re prepared. If we do struggle, it’s not because of the fundamental design of the car, it’s really just a matter of more time development needed. We’re ready to address that if needed.’’

Chevrolet enters this new era without its NASCAR program manager. Alba Colon joined Hendrick Motorsports earlier this month to oversee the team’s competition systems group. She was among those from Chevrolet at the track most weekends who worked with the teams.

Suhy said he’s temporarily filling Colon’s job, along with his other duties, until a replacement can be found. Suhy said the team that developed the car remains and that Kevin Bayless, Chevrolet Racing NASCAR Chassis and Aerodynamics Program Manager, will play a greater role. Bayless will be at the organizational test Jan. 31-Feb. 1 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Each Cup organization is allowed to have one team test. 

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