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Richard Petty Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing announce alliance

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Richard Petty Motorsports announced Friday that it will switch to Chevrolet and partner with Richard Childress Racing, moving its shop adjacent to the RCR campus in Welcome, North Carolina. The move will be completed by January.

Richard Petty Motorsports will receive chassis and engineering support from RCR. Also, Richard Petty Motorsports will use ECR Engines.

Richard Petty Motorsports, which will field the No. 43 car for Darrell Wallace Jr., will remain an independent race team.

“This is our next chapter of Petty racing,” said Richard Petty, co-owner, Richard Petty Motorsports, in a statement. “We need to provide Bubba, Drew (Blickensderfer) and the rest of the team with the tools necessary to be successful on the track, and I feel strongly this is the best move for RPM, our partners and everyone involved with our team. Chevrolet has been a consistent winner in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for a long time and we’re proud to be a part of the GM family again.   We feel we can immediately win with Chevrolet and our new alliance with RCR.”

“We’ve had a tremendous amount of success through our team partnerships over the past several seasons”, said Richard Childress, Chairman and CEO of RCR, in a statement.  “To bring a storied organization like Richard Petty Motorsports on-board as an alliance partner is a win for each of our organizations.”

The Petty family’s history with General Motors and Chevrolet includes such moments:
  • June 1957: Lee Petty’s first General Motors win (Oldsmobile)
  • February 1959: Lee Petty wins inaugural Daytona 500 (Oldsmobile)
  • 1979 and 1981: Richard Petty wins the Daytona 500 (Oldsmobile/Buick)
  • 1979 and 1980: Richard Petty takes the Chevrolet brand to victory lane six times (Martinsville, Michigan, Dover, Rockingham, North Wilkesboro and Nashville Fairgrounds)
  • July 1984: Richard Petty’s 200th win (Pontiac)
  • October 1996: Richard Petty’s first win as a sole car owner with Bobby Hamilton (Pontiac)

Richard Petty Motorsports is in the midst of significant change. The team announced Oct. 25 that Darrell Wallace Jr. would drive the No. 43 car next season. He will take over for Aric Almirola, who left after this season to join Stewart-Haas Racing.

RPM stated Aug. 28 that it would vacate the race shop it leased in Mooresville, North Carolina, after the season.

The organization continues to look for sponsorship. Smithfield had been a primary sponsor the past six years. Smithfield will sponsor Almirola at Stewart-Haas Racing next year but also is expected to stay on in some form with RPM, according to a SportsBusiness Daily report in October. Richard Petty Motorsports announced Nov. 3 that Click n’ Close will sponsor the car in at least three races next year, including the Daytona 500. STP announced Nov. 13 that it would sponsor RPM in two races in 2018

The move of Wallace and Richard Petty Motorsports to Chevrolet means that half of the 14 Chevrolet Cup drivers who have been announced with rides for next season would be age 25 or under to start the season. Wallace is 24 and joins William Byron (age 20), Chase Elliott (22), Alex Bowman (24), Kyle Larson (25), Ty Dillon (25) and Chris Buescher (25) in the Chevrolet roster with such a move.

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. has ‘some interest’ in being part of group that buys Carolina Panthers

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. is not one of two race car drivers who are part of Felix Sabates’ group seeking to buy the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, according to the Associated Press.

NASCAR’s 15-time most popular driver told the AP he hadn’t been asked by Sabates to join the group. But Earnhardt said he reached out to Marcus Smith, CEO of Speedway Motorsports Inc., about the possibility of being part of an effort to pursue the team.

SMI own Charlotte Motor Speedway and seven other NASCAR tracks.

“I said, ‘Hey, Marcus, if you guys are in the middle of it and you think it’s a good business deal, I definitely have some interest,'” Earnhardt told the AP. “But I am not one of the guys that Felix is talking about.”

Sabates, co-owner of Chip Ganassi Racing, told the Charlotte Observer last week he was part of a local group in the Charlotte area seeking to buy the Panthers. Sabates said he is not in position to be the majority owner by a “long shot.”

Sabates’ group includes five businessmen, two of the team’s existing minority owners and two race car drivers, who Sabates declined to name.

Panthers owner Jerry Richardson is selling the team after it was revealed in December by Sports Illustrated that four former Panther employees received “significant settlements” for workplace misconduct that included “sexual harassment against female employees and for directing a racial slur at an African-American employee.”

NASCAR recently denied a report that CEO and Chairman Brian France was part of a group interested in buying the team.

Earnhardt, a noted fan of the Washington Redskins, recently retired from Cup racing after 18 full-time seasons on the circuit.

“I wouldn’t have the kind of money where I would move the needle too much, but it would be something to have a lot of pride in, and a good Charlotte NFL team is good for the city of Charlotte,” Earnhardt said. “I wish them success because of what it does for our community, not only from a pride standpoint, but an economical standpoint. I wouldn’t be a big player, and it wouldn’t be an investment that would really create a big change in my life.

“But I certainly would love to be supportive to the team and the success of the team to the community. That means a lot to me.”

Earnhardt will make his debut as a member of the NBC Sports broadcasting family next month during coverage of the Super Bowl and winter Olympics.

DC Solar to sponsor Chip Ganassi Racing in Cup, Xfinity races

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DC Solar will sponsor Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray in select Cup Series races and several Xfinity Series races this year, the team announced Tuesday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

DC Solar has backed Ganassi for the last three seasons in the Xfinity Series. It sponsored Brennan Poole‘s No. 48 Chevrolet for the last two seasons. Ganassi will only field one full-time car in the Xfinity Series this season.

The provider of mobile solar lighting devices will be on Larson’s No. 42 Chevrolet and McMurray’s No. 1 Chevrolet in Cup. Both drivers will pilot the No. 42 in the Xfinity Series, along with John Hunter Nemechek.

McMurray hasn’t competed in the Xfinity Series since 2013.

DC Solar will make its Cup debut with Larson and the in the season-opening Advance Auto Parts Clash exhibition on Feb. 11.

DC Solar provides mobile solar lighting solutions, EV chargers, and power stations to multiple tracks, including Charlotte Motor Speedway, ISM Raceway (Phoenix) and Darlington Raceway.

The company has also partnered with ISM Raceway during its $178 million renovation project.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. to make NBC Sports debut with Super Bowl, Olympics coverage

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Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR’s 15-time most popular driver, will make his debut as a member of the NBC family with the network’s coverage of next month’s Super Bowl and the winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

Earnhardt, who just retired after 18 full-time seasons in the Cup Series, will be part of NBC’s pre-game coverage of the Feb. 4 Super Bowl in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

While there, Earnhardt will take part in outdoor events and activities taking place in city leading up to kickoff.

Earnhardt will then travel to PyeongChang, where he will explore the culture, people, and traditions in South Korea and experience the Olympics first hand. Earnhardt will visit the speed skating venue at Gangneung Ice Arena, and through the lens of a racer will view the speed, close contact, and tight turns on the speed skating oval.

Following a recent invite on social media from the U.S. bobsled team, Earnhardt will also travel to the Alpensia Sliding Center where he will get to ride in an Olympic bobsled.

The XXIII Olympic Winter Games begin Feb. 8.

“I’m excited to get to work with my new NBC family,” Earnhardt said in a press release. “Beginning with two huge events like the Super Bowl and Olympics, right out of the gate, should be quite the introduction. I’m looking forward to raising the profile of NASCAR, and all that we’re going to be doing during the 2018 season.”

Earnhardt will be an analyst on NBC’s coverage of the NASCAR season. The NBC portion of the Cup schedule begins July 1 at Chicagoland Speedway on NBCSN.

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Cody Coughlin joins GMS Racing in Truck Series

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GMS Racing announced Tuesday that it has signed Cody Coughlin to compete for the team in the Camping World Truck Series this season.

Coughlin, the son of NHRA driver and JEGS President John Coughlin, joins the team after one year driving for ThorSport Racing.

The 22-year-old driver will pilot the No. 2 JEGS Chevrolet in his second full-time season in the series.

“I couldn’t be more excited to join the GMS Racing family as well as be back running for Chevrolet,” Coughlin said in a press release. “GMS is a team that has proven to be one of the teams to beat every time they unload at the race track and now I have the same opportunity. I can’t thank GMS Racing, (team owners) Maury Gallagher and Mike Beam enough for this chance. I think we have the right tools and personnel in place with the No.2 team to run up front and contend for race wins every weekend.”

Coughlin joins Justin Haley, Dalton Sargeant and 2016 series champion Johnny Sauter.

Coughlin has 35 series starts since 2015. His best finish is third at Phoenix in November last season. It is his only top-five finish. He has three tops 10s.

The native of Delaware, Ohio, will be paired with crew chief Jerry Baxter. Baxter worked with Kaz Grala in 2017. Together they won the season opener at Daytona and earned five top fives and 11 top 10s.

Baxter has 10 wins as a crew chief in the Truck Series, including five with Darrell Wallace Jr.

“I’m more than ready to get the 2018 season underway,” Baxter said in a press release. “Last year we raced against Cody every weekend, so I have an idea of the type of driver he is. It will be even better to be able to work with him now firsthand. We have a good group of hard-working guys on the No. 2 that will definitely put us in the position to run well every time we’re at the track.”

The 2018 Truck Series season begins Feb. 16 at Daytona International Speedway.

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