Darian Grubb named Kasey Kahne’s crew chief for remainder of playoffs (video)

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Kasey Kahne will have Darian Grubb as his crew chief for the remaining nine races of the NASCAR Cup playoffs and Kahne’s tenure with Hendrick Motorsports, the team announced Monday.

Grubb replaces Keith Rodden, who has been with Kahne on the No. 5 Chevrolet since 2015. Hendrick makes the move after Kahne finished 21st, three laps down in Sunday’s playoff-opening race at Chicagoland Speedway.

Kahne, who qualified for the playoffs with his Brickyard 400 win in July, left Chicagoland 15th in the playoff standings, five points behind the cutoff for the second round.

The Brickyard 400 win was the only one for Kahne and Rodden in their three seasons together at Hendrick. It is Rodden’s only victory in 138 races as a Cup crew chief. The Indy win also is Kahne’s only top-10 finish in the last 17 races.

Before taking over crew chief duties on the No. 5 in 2015, Rodden worked with Kahne on the No. 5 from 2012-13 as the lead engineer before moving to Chip Ganassi Racing for one season.

That one year was the only gap for Rodden in more than a decade of working on cars driven by Kahne.

Rodden remains under contract to Hendrick Motorsports through the end of this season. The team said he will be assigned other responsibilities.

“I’m looking forward to working with the team for the rest of the season,” Grubb said in a press release. “I enjoy competing in a playoffs environment, and we have tremendous resources at Hendrick Motorsports to pull from. I’m ready to get started this weekend.”

Grubb returned to Hendrick Motorsports in January 2016 as the vehicle production director and was recently promoted to director of competition systems.

Grubb originally joined Hendrick in January 2003, where he worked as the lead race engineer for the No. 48 team through 2006, including four races as interim crew chief during the team’s 2006 championship season when Chad Knaus was suspended to start the season. Johnson won two of those races, including the Daytona 500.

Grubb earned one win in 2007 as crew chief for Casey Mears before being named engineering manager for the No. 5 and 88 teams for 2008.

“Darian is an extremely talented and experienced crew chief,” said Hendrick Motorsports president Marshall Carlson in the press release. “Having been back with us for more than 20 months, he knows all of our people and processes. There’s no one more prepared to hit the ground running at this point in the year.”

Grubb was the crew chief for Tony Stewart at Stewart-Haas Racing in 2011 when he won five races in the playoffs on the way to winning his third Cup title. From 2012-15, Grubb worked for Joe Gibbs Racing, earning nine wins with Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards.

 

Cole Pearn to honor late friend with fundraiser for family next month in Toronto

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A testimonial to Cole Pearn’s best friend, who unexpectedly passed away in early August, as well as a fundraiser for his family will be held Friday, Jan. 5, at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

Pearn’s lifelong friend, Jacob Damen, died unexpectedly after contracting a fast-moving bacterial infection on August 3.

Pearn, crew chief for the 2017 NASCAR Cup championship for Furniture Row Racing, will oversee the gala event, which will be held from 7 to 10 p.m. ET.

The evening will also include an appearance by 2017 NASCAR Cup champion Martin Truex Jr., silent and live auctions, the opportunity to meet both Pearn and Truex and other events.

All net proceeds from the evening will be given to the Damen Family Fund.

“We miss our buddy Jacob dearly,” Pearn said in a media release. “We all have family and friends that fill a space in our hearts that is irreplaceable.

“Jacob filled the hearts of his wife Carolyn, his sons Lucas and Nolan, his parents Jerry and Kim Damen, twin brother Tyler, sister Julia and countless friends.

“We are going to celebrate his life at the perfect spot, the Hockey Hall of Fame, to support his beautiful wife Carolyn and the two boys, Lucas and Nolan. I can’t wait to get home to celebrate with everyone.”

Click here for more details and to purchase tickets to the ‘Jacob Damen Friend and Fan Remembered’ event.

NASCAR Fan Appreciation Day scheduled for Jan. 20

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The annual NASCAR Fan Appreciation Day will return to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina, next month.

The event is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 20, the day after the 2018 Hall of Fame class is inducted.

Fans will be able to take part in an autograph session with current national series drivers, Hall of Famers and members of the NASCAR Next class, as well photo opportunities and question-and-answer sessions with a number of NASCAR legends.

Admission to Hall of Fame will be free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis

Admission to driver autograph sessions is free but will require a ticket for participation. Fans can register for the driver autograph sessions at nascarhall.com beginning Saturday, Jan. 13 at 10 a.m. ET. A full driver autograph session schedule will be announced at a later date.

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Ryan Blaney to guest star on NBC’s ‘Taken’ next year

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Ryan Blaney has a particular set of skills; skills that he’s developed through years of professional auto racing.

The Team Penske driver will get to display those skills next year on NBC’s “Taken” TV Series.

The show serves as a prequel to the 2008 Liam Neeson film of the same name.

Blaney, 23, will guest start on the second season of the series, which premieres Jan. 12. He will appear in an episode titled “Imperium” as a special agent who knows his way around a car.

Here’s the plot synopsis for the episode.

“When a dangerous weapons dealer smuggles his wares into New York City, Bryan Mills (Clive Standen) teams up with the FBI in a race to stop him before he reaches the safety of international waters.”

This won’t be Blaney’s first time in front of a camera playing someone else. He had two movie cameos this year in Logan Lucky and Cars 3.

Blaney was filming his role in “Taken” on Tuesday in Ontario. See his tweets from the set below.

NASCAR Hall of Famer Jack Ingram update: Leaves ICU, moves to acute care facility

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NASCAR Hall of Famer Jack Ingram’s condition continues to improve following a serious car crash in his native Asheville, North Carolina on Dec. 3.

According to an online post by his daughter, Ingram was taken out of Intensive Care on Tuesday and moved into an Acute Care facility, which is not as serious as ICU is.

Ingram did suffer a small setback in his recovery, developing a slight infection that is being treated with antibiotics.

Added the note from Ingrid Jones, Jack’s daughter, “The acute care facility will work to start decreasing his pain meds, over time, and put him on less narcotics and more simple analgesics (like really strong Tylenol, but without narcotics).

“Also they will continue his therapies, physical and occupational, as he’s able. It is still hard to know what his long-term health future will be, but we think his color looks really good, and we have no doubts that he has the will and determination to see this through.

“So if it is humanly possible for him to overcome, he will.”

We’ll continue to have periodic updates on Ingram’s condition as they become available.