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Stewart-Haas Racing announces driver-crew chief pairings for 2018

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Stewart-Haas Racing on Friday morning announced its driver-crew chief lineup for the 2018 NASCAR Cup Series season.

Two driver-crew chief pairings remain the same: Kevin Harvick and Rodney Childers on the No. 4 team, as well as Clint Bowyer and Mike Bugarewicz on the No. 14 team.

The changes are related to the No. 41 and No. 10 teams:

* Earlier this week, Kurt Busch re-signed with SHR and will have a new crew chief for 2018, Billy Scott, for the No. 41 Ford.

Busch’s previous crew chief since November 2014, Tony Gibson, is expected to assume a new role within the organization.

Scott, meanwhile, shifts to the No. 41 team as its crew chief after spending the last two seasons as Danica Patrick’s crew chief.

The 2017 winner of the Daytona 500, Busch enters his fifth season with Stewart-Haas. Five of his 29 career Cup wins have been with SHR.

* The newest member of the team, Aric Almirola, replaces Danica Patrick in the No. 10 Ford. Joining Almirola as crew chief will be John Klausmeier, who has been a team engineer with the organization since 2009.

Klausmeier already has a win as a crew chief, serving in an interim capacity in place of Gibson in June 2016 when Busch won at Pocono.

And then there’s the two returning driver-crew chief combinations:

* Childers returns as Harvick’s crew chief for the fifth straight year. Together, the pair has won 14 races, 15 poles and led 6,665 laps. They won the NASCAR Cup championship in 2014 and have been part of the Championship 4 in three of its four-year existence.

* Bugarewicz enters his third year as the crew chief for the No. 14 Ford. He spent 2016 as Tony Stewart’s crew chief, leading the three-time Cup champ to the 49th and final win of his career (Sonoma) before retiring as a Cup driver at the end of that season.

Bugarewicz remained in the same position when Bowyer replaced Stewart in the No. 14 in 2017. Together, the pair had three second-place finishes this past season.

“We wanted to maximize our strengths and address the areas where we needed to improve, and we feel this lineup gives us our best chance to succeed every time we bring our Ford Fusions to the racetrack,” SHR VP of competition Greg Zipadelli said in a media release. “This is a very technical sport, but it’s the people who make it go, and we’ve got some of the best people in the business.”

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Darlington celebrates NASCAR’s 70th birthday by revealing 4th throwback weekend details

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Darlington Raceway on Thursday celebrated the 70th birthday of NASCAR in a big way, announcing details for the fourth annual NASCAR throwback weekend.

The track revealed the 2018 edition of the throwback weekend will celebrate “Seven Decades of NASCAR,” to be held Aug. 31-Sept. 2 at the legendary 1.366-mile track.

The weekend will include the Cup Series’ Bojangles’ Southern 500 and the Xfinity Series’ Sports Clips Haircuts VFW 200.

NASCAR held its first of several organizational meetings on Dec. 14, 1947, at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach, Florida. That ultimately led to the official formation of NASCAR on Feb. 21, 1948.

The throwback weekend will honor and feature highlights of some of the biggest moments in the sport’s history over its first 70 years.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for Darlington Raceway and the NASCAR industry to celebrate the sport over a seven decade period during our 2018 throwback weekend,” Darlington Raceway President Kerry Tharp said in a media release.

“We have been era specific the past three years,” Tharp added, “so we felt it was important to recognize the 70th anniversary of NASCAR with our ‘Seven Decades of NASCAR’ celebration next season and give the teams, sanctioning body and others a wider brush to paint a picture capturing memorable moments we might not have celebrated in year’s past.”

Memorable moments to be celebrated include several that took place at Darlington itself, including Ned Jarrett’s record-setting 14-lap victory in the 1965 Southern 500, Ricky Craven’s record-setting photo finish win over Kurt Busch in 2003, and Jimmie Johnson’s 2012 Southern 500 win, which gave team owner Rick Hendrick his 200th career victory, among others.

Cup winners of the first three throwback weekends have been Carl Edwards (2015), Martin Truex Jr. (2016) and Denny Hamlin (2017).

As has been the case for the first three throwback weekends, the track will once again issue commemorative tickets for the Southern 500.

“We have produced commemorative tickets for our fans every year of the throwback program, which is an important part of our platform,” Tharp said. “We appreciate how much the fans have supported Darlington Raceway and want them to walk away from our weekend with a special keepsake that recognizes our rich history and honors the stars of our sport.”

Kurt Busch re-signs with Stewart-Haas Racing

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Kurt Busch has re-signed with Stewart-Haas Racing, putting him back in the No. 41 Ford for the 2018 Cup season.

The winner of the 2017 Daytona 500 confirmed his re-signing in a statement.

Motorsport.com has reported Busch signed a one-year deal.

Busch, 39, will continue to be sponsored by Monster Energy as he enters his fifth season with SHR. Monster Energy is also the entitlement sponsor of the Cup Series.

“Having my hard work pay off by winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and the 2017 Daytona 500 has given me the drive to continue conquering the NASCAR world,” Busch said. “I am excited to enter the 2018 racing season as a Monster Energy athlete where I will continue to drive my favorite manufacturer, the Ford Motor Company. Knowing that SHR is committed to optimum performance, I believe that I have everything I need to win races this season and take home the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup. I look forward to taking on next year with my team, sponsors and determination.”

Busch completes SHR’s 2018 Cup driver lineup with Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and newcomer Aric Almirola.

SHR announced over the summer that Busch’s original contract option would not be picked up.

The 2004 Cup champion will enter his 18th full-time season in the Cup Series.

He made the playoffs in 2017 with his Daytona 500 win, but was eliminated after the first round. He finished the season with six top fives and 15 top 10s. In his four seasons with SHR, Busch has five wins.

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Report: Kurt Busch to re-sign with Stewart-Haas Racing to drive No. 41 Ford

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According to a report by Adam Stern of Sports Business Journal/Sports Business Daily, Kurt Busch is expected to re-sign with Stewart-Haas Racing sometime in the coming days to continue driving the No. 41 Ford Fusion.

Stern reported on Sports Business Daily: “Stewart-Haas Racing is expected to announce this week that Kurt Busch has signed on to continue driving the team’s No. 41 Ford in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, according to sources. Terms of the new deal were unclear at presstime.”

Stern also tweeted the news:

Stewart-Haas Racing did not confirm nor deny the SBJ/SBD report. A spokesman told NBC Sports in an email, “When or if its official, you’ll see a release from us.”

Busch has spent the last four seasons with Stewart-Haas, earning five of his 29 career NASCAR Cup wins. He’s finished 12th in 2014, eighth in 2015, seventh in 2016 and 14th in 2017.

We’ll update you with more information if/when it becomes available.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. dominates in 2017 RCCA ELITE Diecast sales

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With Dale Earnhardt Jr. retiring from Cup Series competition this season, that means one thing for diecast collectors.

Get them while you still can.

The Racing Collectables Club of America, through Lionel Racing, has released its top-10 list of 1:24-Scale RCCA ELITE diecasts for 2017. The list was included in the RCCA’s year-end catalogue.

According to the Lionel Racing website, ELITE diecasts are the most detailed produced, with more than 260 individual parts.

Earnhardt, who just earned his 15th straight most popular driver award, dominates the list with six of 10 cars.

The only other drivers represented on the list are Ryan Blaney, Kurt Busch, Austin Dillon and Chase Elliott.

Below you can see a picture of the full top-10 list.

Here’s the entire top 10.

  1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Axalta “Last Ride” No. 88 Chevrolet – Earnhardt drove this car, based on the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet from his 2000 rookie season, in his final start at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
  2. Ryan Blaney: Motorcraft No. 21 Ford, Pocono race win diecast – Blaney drove this car to his first Cup win on June 11 at Pocono Raceway.
  3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Nationwide No. 88 Chevrolet, Darlington throwback paint scheme – Earnhardt raced this car, based on his ACDelco paint scheme from his two Xfinity Series championship seasons (1998-99), in the Southern 500.
  4. Kurt Busch: Haas Automation No. 41 Ford, Daytona 500 race win diecast – The confetti and grass-covered car Busch won the 59th Daytona 500 in to start the year.
  5. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Nationwide No. 88 Chevrolet, primary paint scheme
  6. Austin Dillon: Dow Salutes No. 3 Chevrolet, Coca-Cola 600 race win diecast – The car Dillon drove to his first Cup win in May, sending the No. 3 to Victory Lane for the first time since Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s last win in October 2000 at Talladega Superspeedway.
  7. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Nationwide No. 88 Chevrolet, patriotic paint scheme – Earnhardt drove this scheme in the Coke 600.
  8. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Mountain Dew/Ride With Dale No. 88 Chevrolet, race version – Earnhardt drove this car in his final start at Talladega Superspeedway in October. Fans were able to register to have their names inscribed in the scheme. Earnhardt started from his 15th and final Cup pole in this race.
  9. Chase Elliott: Hooters No. 24 Chevrolet – Elliott drove this car in the spring Talladega race and the playoff races at Phoenix Raceway and Texas Motor Speedway.
  10. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Nationwide “Gray Ghost” No. 88 Chevrolet – Earnhardt drove this car in his final Cup start at Martinsville Speedway. Earnhardt originally intended to run the scheme in the 2016 Southern 500, but Jeff Gordon did when Earnhardt missed the last 18 races of the season for a concussion.

See the list below.

Photo by Daniel McFadin

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