Michael Waltrip

GMS Racing

Spencer Gallagher sporting Michael Waltrip’s rookie scheme for Xfinity Darlington race

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Spencer Gallagher‘s first Xfinity Series start at Darlington Raceway (Sept. 2 on NBCSN) will be in a car with Michael Waltrip‘s rookie Cup Series paint scheme.

The GMS Racing driver’s No. 23 Chevrolet will look like the No. 23 Pontiac Waltrip drove in 1986 when he was sponsored by Hawaiian Punch.

“I am really excited about being a part of the throwback weekend at Darlington,” Gallagher said in a press release. “I have always looked up to Michael so getting the opportunity to honor him is an amazing feeling. He has done a lot for this sport and to be able to bring back some memories and history for him and the fans is really exciting.”

Now an analyst for Fox Sports, Waltrip drove in the Cup series from 1985-2017. He earned four wins, including two Daytona 500 victories. He made his last start in this season’s Daytona 500.

He also made 279 starts in the Xfinity Series earning 11 wins from 1988-2011. One of those was at Darlington in 1992.

“I love the throwback weekend at Darlington,” Waltrip said in a press release. “I’m honored that Spencer is racing my rookie year scheme. I came into NASCAR with a ton of energy, enthusiasm and appreciation for the sport and Spencer (Gallagher) is the same way. He will love every minute of racing at Darlington. Just like I did.”

Gallagher is currently 19th in the points standings after 20 races. His best finish so far is 10th at Richmond.

MORE: Southern 500 throwback paint schemes

Clint Bowyer’s Southern 500 paint scheme honors Mark Martin (video)

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Stewart-Haas Racing and Clint Bowyer will honor NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin with the paint scheme on Bowyer’s car for the Sept. 3 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

Bowyer’s throwback paint scheme harkens to when Martin drove a Carolina Ford Dealers Ford for Bill Davis Racing in 43 Xfinity races between 1988-91.

“If you want to associate yourself with a winner and all that’s good about our sport and its history, then you aren’t going to do any better than Mark Martin,” said Bowyer, who raced as a teammate with Martin in 2012 and 2013 while at Michael Waltrip Racing, in a statement.

“I’m proud to say I got to race with and against Mark in my career, and it’s an honor to have him join us at Darlington in September. When the folks at SHR and Carolina Ford Dealers came up with this idea, I was pretty pumped up for it. Then I saw the paint scheme, and I knew it was going to be one of the best in Darlington.”

Martin finished with 40 Cup wins, placed second in the points five times, won 49 Xfinity races and won five IROC Series titles.

“This is a really cool deal and brings back a lot of memories,” Martin said in a statement. “This was a good time and I hope the race fans enjoy it as much as I will seeing it out on the track. Darlington is one of my favorite places on earth and I’m not going to miss this one.”

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Hendrick Motorsports faces challenge with multiple sponsor deals ending after 2018 season

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Plenty of time remains, but Hendrick Motorsports faces a pivotal year with several primary sponsorship deals ending after the 2018 season.

Thursday’s announcement that Alex Bowman will drive the No. 88 next year after Dale Earnhardt Jr. steps away also included the nugget that Nationwide will extend its deal one year through the 2018 season.

That means that Hendrick Motorsports will have the following major primary sponsorships ending after next season: Lowe’s (Jimmie Johnson), Nationwide (Alex Bowman), Axalta (Bowman) and NAPA (Chase Elliott).

Those companies serve as a primary sponsor for a combined 94 points races next season:

Lowe’s will do 36 races, sharing some with vendors, on Johnson’s car.

NAPA will do 24 races on Elliott’s car.

Nationwide will do 19 races on Bowman’s car.

Axalta will increase its total by two to 15 on Bowman’s car next season.

And there’s more.

SunEnergy1’s deal of four races a year on Elliott’s car expires after the 2018 season.

Mountain Dew’s deal expires after the 2018 season and includes sponsorship of the cars of Earnhardt/Bowman, Kasey Kahne and Elliott, representing eight races total.

Rarely does an organization have so many significant sponsor deals end at the same time.

And there’s the fact that Hendrick Motorsports has yet to announce replacements on Kasey Kahne’s car with Farmer’s Bank Insurance not returning when its deal expires after this season, and Great Clips ending its agreement after this year. Those companies are scheduled to serve as the primary sponsor for 22 races this year.

Despite the challenges Hendrick Motorsports seems to be facing, it helps that the organization has done well in retaining sponsors — Axalta has been with the company since 1992 and Lowe’s since 2001 — but there are no guarantees. Lowe’s extension did not match the three-year extension Johnson signed. In 2015, both Johnson and Lowe’s signed two-year extensions. Before that deal, Johnson signed a five-year extension and Lowe’s signed a three-year deal, following with a two-year extension to later match Johnson’s contract length.

Nationwide and NAPA don’t have as long a history with Hendrick Motorsports as Axalta and Lowe’s.

Nationwide sponsored what is now the Xfinity Series from 2008-14 before becoming the primary sponsor of Earnhardt’s No. 88 car in 2015.

NAPA, which severed ties with Michael Waltrip Racing for its involvement in a team order scandal at Richmond in 2013, partnered with Elliott in 2014 when he was at JR Motorsports and followed him to Cup at Hendrick Motorsports.

With 16 months before the 2018 season ends, there’s plenty of time for Hendrick Motorsports to extend deals with each company or find others. Still, there is much work ahead. The pressure will be on to get those deals done in a timely manner.

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Mother of Darrell and Michael Waltrip passes away at 90

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Margaret Waltrip, the mother of former NASCAR drivers Darrell and Michael Waltrip, died Wednesday morning at the age of 90, the brothers announced on Twitter.

Michael Waltrip said his mother passed away “peacefully in her bed with family by her side.”

Margaret Waltrip had five children, Darrell, Michael, Connie, Carolyn and the late Bobby Waltrip, who died in 2014. 

Leroy Waltrip, Margaret’s husband, died in 2000 at 76 after a three-year battle with cancer.

Below are the Waltrip brothers’ statements on Twitter.

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Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s greatest moments at Daytona International Speedway

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Triumph and transcendence. Tragedy and tumult.

Daytona International Speedway has been a training ground for life in many ways for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who has enjoyed many of his greatest success in NASCAR, and his greatest personal loss, at the 2.5-mile track.

After his seven-time champion father was killed in a last-lap wreck in the 2001 Daytona 500, Earnhardt won in the Cup circuit’s next trip to Daytona less than five months later. It was the first of 17 victories that the Hendrick Motorsports driver has scored at the World Center of Racing, which has become inextricably linked to his family’s legacy. Earnhardt’s father is the winningest driver in Daytona history with 34 victories (including Cup, Xfinity, qualifiers and exhibition races, though it was an agonizing 20-year wait to win his first and only Daytona 500 in 1998).

“It makes me feel like I come from a better breed than most of the guys I’m racing against,” Earnhardt Jr. said about his lineage at Daytona after a 2003 victory in The Clash exhibition race. “I watched (his father) real close. I learned a lot about how to drive race cars by watching him, and I was probably watching more than he knew or anybody knew. I had a lot of practice just trying to think about, ‘Man, how did he lose that race or how did he win that race and why did the car do that?’ I’m running into all these situations and understanding certain things that I’ve seen over the years. He was really, really good at running at this track.”

So is Earnhardt Jr., and NBCSN will celebrate perhaps his greatest moment at Daytona ahead of his final start at the track as a full-time driver.

The second annual #NASCARThrowback special will feature Earnhardt’s 2004 Daytona 500 victory at 7 p.m. today on NBCSN. The interactive watch party, hosted by Dale Jarrett, Parker Kligerman and Carolyn Manno, will allow viewers to interact with drivers and NASCAR on NBC broadcasters on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using the #NASCARThrowback.

Here are the greatest triumphs at Daytona for Earnhardt, who is retiring from Cup after 2017:

  1. Daytona 500, Feb. 15, 2004: Exactly six years after his father’s only victory in the Great American Race, Earnhardt won the race in his fifth attempt.He interrupted his postrace interview to take a call from President George W. Bush, who landed in Air Force One on a runway just behind the backstretch shortly before the race and gave the command to start engines. The race also signified the debut of new title sponsor Nextel and the dawn of NASCAR’s playoff era. All of it – even the president’s visit – was overshadowed by the winner, who passed Tony Stewart for the lead with 20 laps left. “Good God, I can’t believe it,” Earnhardt said. “This has got to be the greatest day of my life.”
  2. Coke Zero 400, July 7, 2001: In the first Cup race at Daytona after his father perished in Turn 4, Earnhardt Jr. drives from sixth to first in one lap on a restart with six laps left, celebrating with donuts in the infield and a memorable rooftop hug from Dale Earnhardt Inc. teammate Michael Waltrip. Recalling the win in a 2015 interview with Steve Letarte (video below), Earnhardt talked about driving to the scene of his father’s fatal crash a few days ahead of the race and walking around “just seeing how I would feel. I don’t want to fall apart in front of all my guys. It was good. Dad loved this place, and I’m still at peace with this place and still love being here. Looking forward to racing many more years.”
  1. Daytona 500, Feb. 23, 2014: It was easy to lose track of how many significant developments emerged from Earnhardt’s second Daytona 500 victory (achieving something his late father never did). There was the end of a nearly two-year winless streak, the automatic qualification for the revamped championship playoff and the spontaneous decision to join Twitter in the wee hours after a frenetic race that took nearly 10 hours to complete because of a six-hour rain delay. “We’re going for the jugular this year,” he said, presaging a season in which he would score his highest victory total in 10 years.
  2. Xfinity race, July 2, 2010: After years of speculation over whether he ever would run his father’s iconic number, Earnhardt put the entire debate to bed with a magically sentimental performance. Driving a No. 3 Chevrolet with a blue and yellow Wrangler throwback paint scheme for JR Motorsports, Earnhardt led the final 34 laps and then declared that was his final ride with the number, which he also took to victory lane in 2002 at Daytona with a Richard Childress Racing car and ran from 1998-99 in Xfinity for Dale Earnhardt Inc. “I don’t ever want to do it again and I won’t ever change my mind,” Earnhardt Jr. said. 
  3. Xfinity race, Feb. 16 2004: The bookend to his greatest victory at Daytona. Roughly three hours after his winning Daytona 500 car was enshrined, Earnhardt started a postponed Xfinity race on five hours’ sleep and scored a dominant victory that capped a Speedweeks tripleheader of victories (he also won a qualifier). It was Earnhardt’s ninth win at the 2.5-mile oval in three years. “I feel like you can compare me to (his father) today, we’ve done so much over the last three years,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “All the wins I’ve got come from either the confidence of being an Earnhardt when you pull out on the track and just knowing what your dad accomplished and feeling like you might have that down inside you as well.”