Photo: Dustin Long

A look back at the 2017 season through pictures

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After each season, I go back and look at the photos I’ve taken and reflect upon what was. On this first weekend of the offseason, here’s a few photos from this past season to enjoy and ponder.

The year began with the shocking news that Carl Edwards would not compete in 2017. Not everyone was convinced that Edwards would go the entire season without getting back into a car. He did just that. Edwards, recently honored for the sportsmanship he displayed in the 2016 season finale in Miami, talked about racing, his life and what might be next.

 

Ryan Blaney finds a few moments to fuel up before the Monster Energy All-Star Race in May at Charlotte Motor Speedway, while hanging with Kasey Kahne, Joey Logano and Chase Elliott.

 

As I was going through my phone, one person in this picture stood out to me from the drivers meeting at New Hampshire in September during the playoffs. Hint: Look for Kyle Busch in a red shirt. When I was going through pictures he instantly popped out at me in this picture.

 

My favorite picture of the year. Matt Kenseth walking with one his daughters on pit road before the playoff race at Dover in September. When we will see Kenseth next?

 

NASCAR experimented with two-day on-track schedules (series officials called those enhanced weekends) that also included fun activities for fans and drivers. In temperatures above 90 degrees at Indianapolis, Kevin Harvick (left), Chase Elliott (center) and Corey LaJoie (right) all used a child’s jump rope to see who was best. LaJoie excelled. I like this photo for the look on Elliott’s face as he watches LaJoie.

 

While waiting for their cars to pass inspection at Texas in November, this picture almost could be the start of a joke. A Ford driver (Joey Logano), and a Chevrolet driver (Kasey Kahne) watch qualifying in a Toyota (Martin Truex Jr.) driver’s pit stall …

Typical Talladega. Crew members stand around Danica Patrick‘s wrecked car in the spring race. She was eliminated in an 18-car crash. A total of 38 cars – more than the number of chartered teams – were eliminated by accidents or for being parked related to accident damage in the two Talladega Cup races this year.

 

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Rick Hendrick embrace after Earnhardt climbed from his car at Homestead-Miami Speedway, his final Cup race. Nothing else needs to be said.

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Front Row Motorsports adds Michael McDowell, expands technical alliance with Roush Fenway

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Front Row Motorsports will field entries for David Ragan and Michael McDowell in 2018 while expanding its technical alliance with Roush Fenway Racing, the team announced Thursday.

McDowell joins the Bob Jenkins-owned team after four years of driving the No. 95 Chevrolet for Leavine Family Racing before being replaced by Kasey Kahne.

The native of Phoenix, Arizona, replaces Landon Cassill as Ragan’s teammate.

McDowell, 32, has 249 Cup starts since 2008, but only two full-time seasons under his belt. He made one start for Front Row at Watkins Glen in 2013.

“Since I first drove for Bob at Watkins Glen, we’ve kept in touch and have felt like there might be an opportunity to work together again, and the timing worked out perfectly,” McDowell said in a press release. “It’s been a while since I’ve had a teammate, so I’m really looking forward to working with David, whom I’ve become pretty good friends with over the years. As a team now, we go into the season knowing we have five or six races that put us in position to get a win and earn a spot in the playoffs.”

Ragan returns to Front Row for his fifth season with the team. Ragan earned the organization its first Cup victory in 2013 at Talladega. Ragan has two wins, 15 top fives and 39 top-10 finishes in his Cup career.

“Bob Jenkins and I have developed a good relationship over the years, both professionally and personally,” Ragan said in a press release. “I believe in this team and am proud to have been part of its growth and its successes. I’m excited that Bob and Ford have agreed to take the program to the next level, and I’m happy I’ll be here to help the team continue to grow.”

Crew chief assignments have not been finalized. FRM will announce sponsor partners and driver car numbers at a later date.

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Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s ‘Last Ride’ diecast is Lionel Racing’s bestselling ever

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. has set a new benchmark for Lionel Racing’s most purchased diecast in its 25-year history.

Lionel Racing, NASCAR’s official diecast producer, has announced that the diecast of Earnhardt’s “Last Ride” No. 88 Chevrolet in the Cup season finale last month is now its bestselling diecast in company history.

The “Last Ride” car is based on the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet that Earnhardt drove in his rookie Cup season in 2000.

The previous bestseller was another Earnhardt diecast, for his 2014 Daytona 500 win.

Lionel Racing says that QVC’s “For Race Fans Only” show that featured Earnhardt and unveiled the car helped contribute to sales. But even without QVC, sales of the “Last Ride” diecast outpaced the 2014 Daytona 500 diecast by more than 10,000 units.

“The demand for this car has been simply astounding,” Lionel Racing President Howard Hitchcock said on the company’s website. “The fan response to this diecast is a true measure of how much Earnhardt has meant to both casual NASCAR fans and serious diecast collectors.”

Lionel Racing has also revealed the top-10 selling diecasts for the year, which you can find below. Earnhardt has six cars on the list. Chase Elliott has two and Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney each have one.

Casey Mears likely to split 2018 between NASCAR, Global Rallycross and Stadium Super Trucks

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Casey Mears still plans to compete part-time in NASCAR in 2018, but he’s also looking to expand his racing horizons.

The veteran NASCAR driver told The Checkered Flag recently that he also expects to race in the Red Bull Global Rallycross series, as well as Robby Gordon’s Stadium Super Trucks series.

“Right now I’m talking to a few NASCAR programs to do maybe limited stuff,” Mears told The Checkered Flag. “I don’t have anything that would be a full-time ride in a NASCAR series.

“I’ve been speaking with Robby Gordon in the Stadium Super Truck program. I think that’s a really cool up-and-coming-series and I’d definitely like to be involved with the GRC. It looks like a lot of fun.

“I think there’s enough difference between all those that it could leave room for doing a bit of both so we’ll see how it works out.”

Mears did not race in the Cup Series in 2017, having lost his ride at the end of 2016 to Ty Dillon in the No. 13 Geico Chevy. He has amassed 488 starts and one win (2007 Coca-Cola 600) in his Cup career, along with 13 top fives and 51 top 10s.

However, he did compete on a part-time basis in 2017 in the Xfinity Series, making 14 starts, with season-best finishes of ninth place at both Richmond and Road America. He also has 107 Xfinity starts with one win, 16 top fives and 34 top 10s.

Make donation to Martinsville toy drive to take laps around track

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Have you ever dreamed of making a lap around the oldest track in NASCAR?

Today and tomorrow, Martinsville Speedway is making that dream come true.

With a toy or monetary donation for the Grace Network of Martinsville and Henry County, you can drive your own car around the half-mile track in Martinsville, Virginia.

A $10 donation gets you five laps and $20 gets you 10 laps.

The laps are being held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET today and Friday.