Nicole Behar

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Friday 5: How soon until the next female driver arrives in Cup?

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Danica Patrick’s departure after the Daytona 500 (provided she secures a ride for that race) will leave NASCAR without a female driver in its top series.

It could be years before the next female driver arrives in Cup.

Only two of the 114 drivers who attempted to qualify for an Xfinity race last year were female — Angela Ruch ran four races and Jennifer Jo Cob ran one. Cobb was the only female driver among 103 who attempted to qualify for a Camping World Truck Series race last season.

The last four NASCAR Next classes — which spotlights talented young competitors — featured four female drivers among the 44 racers selected. Those female drivers chosen: Kenzie Ruston (2014-15 class), Nicole Behar (2015-16), Julia Landauer (2016-17) and Hailie Deegan (2017-18).

The 16-year-old Deegan will run the K&N West Pro Series schedule for Bill MacAnally Racing, which has won the past three K&N West titles.

Landauer finished seventh in the points last year in the K&N West Series (after placing fourth in 2016) and Behar was eighth in her second full-time season in that series.

In ARCA, Natalie Decker will run the full season with Venturini Motorsports. She stands to become the fifth female in modern-day ARCA history to compete for a driver’s title, joining Shawna Robinson (2000), Christi Passmore (2003-04), Milka Duno (2013) and Sarah Cornett-Ching (2015).

Former champion crew chief Ray Evernham understands the challenges female drivers face. His wife, Erin, competed in 10 Xfinity races from 2005-06 and 29 Camping World Truck races between 2005-08.

“I think that we’ve got to keep providing opportunities for girls to get that experience,’’ said Evernham, who will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Jan. 19.

“Now with the technology of the cars, the way they’re doing the setups, things like that, it will make it a little bit easier for newer people to come in. But we’ve just got to continue to provide an opportunity or a path for ladies to get experience.

Just as important will be how well they’ll handle the scrutiny.

“I know it stinks that so many people are so critical of lady drivers, much more critical than they are of a male driver of the same performance,’’ Evernham said. “Each time one of those girls weathers that storm, gets a little bit further down the road, gets some credibility, it gets a lady closer to Victory Lane in NASCAR.’’

NASCAR lists 16 women who have competed in at least one Cup race from Louise Smith, Sara Christian and Ethel Mobley in 1949 to Patrick. Patrick’s 190 career Cup starts are more than the other 15 women combined. Janet Guthrie was next with 33 starts between 1976-80 and followed by Smith with 11 starts from 1949-52 and Robinson, who had eight starts from 2001-02.

Patrick and Robinson are the only females to run a Cup race since 1990.

NASCAR lists 22 females having competed in the Xfinity Series. Patty Moise started 133 races, more than any other driver.  Patrick and Robinson are next with 61 starts each, followed by Johanna Long (42 starts) and Jennifer Jo Cobb (29 starts).

2. “The Great American Race”

The phrase has long been used as the nickname for the Daytona 500, but where did it originate?

Australia.

True story.

Let Ken Squier, who will be among the five men inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Jan. 19, explain how he came up with the phrase for the race.

“Well, (Bill) France Sr. had me (in Daytona) from the ’60s.  Daytona always stood out separately, individually, for one thing, the time of year, because most race tracks in America were closed. 

“It was the gathering of the tribes in Daytona Beach, which went all the way back to the turn of the century, when Henry Ford, the Chevrolet brothers, all of that tribe went down there.  They raced down that hard‑packed beach. That never stopped.  One way or another, they continued to go down there in the month of February and toast a few of their friends from the past and turn some wheels.

“That spirit of Daytona is more prevalent than any other when you talk about tracks and parts of the country. In my mind, it needed something that set it aside. Indianapolis was always the greatest spectacle in sports. Indeed, it was.

“But what was Daytona? Well, it was All‑American stock cars in those days, and pretty much the neighbors sounded like your neighbors, particularly if you came from a small town. What would come to mind? I fooled around with that for a long time.

“I was in Australia doing a show. They had a great race over there. It was a long one, it was a dinger, and it was a national holiday. On the way home, I thought, God, that’s what Daytona is. It’s ‘The Great American Race.’

“I got chewed up pretty good about that. Hadn’t I ever heard of Indy? I sure as the dickens had. This was coming from a different place. Sure enough in 1959, when those three cars came across wheel‑to‑wheel at the end of 500 miles, that was The Great American Race.’’

3. Revamped pit stops

Martin Truex Jr. was asked this week about his thoughts on the changes to pit road with five people going over the wall to service the car instead of six this season.

Truex had an interesting take on what pit crew position might grow in importance with the change.

“I think there’s a lot of question marks from all teams, and I know there’s a lot of talk throughout teams and in the industry of how much different it is,’’ he said during a break in the Goodyear tire test at Texas Motor Speedway. “Everybody is going to think they have a handle on it and then somebody is going to do it different on pit road and whip everybody’s butt in Daytona, so then you’re going to have to re-learn everything and try and figure it out.

“From what I understand, it’s been really difficult. A lot of the weight falls on the jackman as far as making the stops go fast and when all that pressure gets put on one position it makes that one position really important and really different than it’s been in the past.’’

4. Las Vegas test

NASCAR has an organizational test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1. That means that one team per organization is permitted at the test.

Among those scheduled to test are William Byron (Hendrick Motorsports), Kyle Larson (Chip Ganassi Racing), Brad Keselowski (Team Penske), Kurt Busch (Stewart-Haas Racing) and Erik Jones (Joe Gibbs Racing).

5. January racing

While the return of NASCAR can’t come soon enough for many, did you know the last time the Cup Series raced in January was 1981? Bobby Allison won at Riverside, California. That was the season-opening race and the Daytona 500 followed. Riverside opened the Cup season from 1970-81.

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NASCAR Next’s Hailie Deegan to race in K&N West for Bill McAnally Racing

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Hailie Deegan, the only female member of the current NASCAR Next class and daughter of X-Games athlete Brian Deegan, will compete in NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series West this season for Bill McAnally Racing, the team announced Wednesday.

Deegan, 16, earned the ride after taking part in a series of test sessions with the team and Toyota late in 2017.

Deegan will drive the No. 19 Mobil 1 / NAPA Power Premium Plus Toyota and joins teammates Cole Rouse and the returning Derek Kraus.

Todd Gilliland, who won the last two K&N West titles for the team, will compete in the Camping World Truck Series.

Deegan is the only announced female driver for the series this year after two, Julia Landauer and Nicole Behar, competed in it last year. They finished the season seventh and eighth.

The native of Temecula, California, also will race in select K&N East events.

“I’m really excited,” Deegan said in a press release. “This is the best team and equipment in the series. BMR has been great to work with. I look forward to racing at a high level on the East and West Coasts with the top team. We are ready to put in the work to continue being a serious competitor.

“It will be exciting to be part of the K&N Series. It’s been a great building ground for a lot of successful NASCAR drivers. It’s a big step.”

On her Twitter profile, Deegan declares, “I want to follow in the footsteps of my Dad.”

Brian Deegan has won the most Freestyle Motocross medals in X Games history with 10. He has multiple championships in the Lucas Oil Pro 2 and Lucas Oil Pro Lite series.

Hailie Deegan began off-road racing when she was 8 and became the first female to win a race and a championship in the Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series.

In 2015, she was the Modified Kart Regional Champion and the next year was the Modified Kart National Champion as well as the Driver of the Year. In 2017, she was the first female in the Pro Lite division of the Lucas Oil Off-Road Series to have multiple podiums in her rookie year.

Deegan took part in NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity combine in 2016 and won the 2017 NASCAR Diversity Young Racer award.

She will seek to become the first woman to win a K&N title and a major NASCAR championship. If she does, it would give Bill McAnally Racing its fourth consecutive K&N West title and ninth overall.

“She’s a very talented driver, who brings with her a lot of energy and excitement,” McAnally said in a press release. “We look forward to being a big part of Hailie’s development as she takes this next step in her racing career. We anticipate great things ahead for everybody, including our partners and fans.”

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NASCAR Next’s Harrison Burton making ARCA debut this weekend

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Harrison Burton, the son of former Sprint Cup driver and NBC Sports analyst Jeff Burton, will be the latest NASCAR Next member to make their ARCA Racing Series debut this weekend.

Burton, 15, will compete for Ranier Racing with MDM in Saturday’s ARCA 150 at Iowa Speedway. He will drive the No. 8 DEX Imaging car. Serving as his teammate will be former NASCAR Next member Kyle Benjamin.

Burton follows NASCAR Next members Ty Majeski and Nicole Behar who made their ARCA debuts last month at Madison International Speedway.

“I’m super excited to have the opportunity to run my first ARCA race with RRWMDM,” Burton said in a press release. “It’s going to be a learning experience for me. I will be learning a new car, team and race track, but I am nothing but confident that the guys at the shop and the team at the race track will give me an excellent car. I am looking forward to the weekend.”

Burton, who will also make his Camping World Truck Series debut in October at Martinsville Speedway, is currently competing in the K&N Pro Series East with HScott Motorsports. Through eight races in 2016, Burton is ninth in points with one top five and two top 10s.

Nicole Behar, Ty Majeski earn top-five finishes in ARCA debuts

Nicole Behar
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It was a big weekend two drivers who are former and current members of the NASCAR Next program.

Nicole Behar, a member of the 2015-16 class, and Ty Majeski, a member of the 2016 -17 class, made their debuts in the ARCA Racing Series on Sunday in the Montgomery Ward Father’s Day 200 at Madison International Speedway.

Behar made her one-off start with Venturini Motorsports, which had three of the last four races at the Wisconsin track.

A native of Washington, Behar started third and that’s where she found herself at the end of the 200-lap event. The result was a historic one, as it tied Behar for the best ARCA short track finish for a female driver, matching the result of Patty Simko-Schacht at Toledo Speedway in 1987.

The 18-year-old also had the best result of Venturini Motorsports’ three teams.

“My spotter (Frankie Kimmel) was great today,” Behar said in a team release. “He kept me calm and gave me great information all day long. Reminding me every single lap of the importance of my entry, he really helped me settle in and gain when I needed to gain. I tried to do the best I could to save the car and save my tires today. I was just trying to get as much as I could today. I tried to do the best I could on a tough track with just one racing line today.”

Behar also holds a tie for the best finish by a female driver in the K&N Pro Series West, where she competed last year.

Majeski, a Roush Fenway Racing development driver competing for the Roulo Brothers, came home fourth after qualifying seventh. The Wisconsin-native had been fastest in both of Saturday’s practice sessions and had a caution with 21 laps left derail a charge to the front.

“We had a good solid run. We kept the fenders on for the most part all day,” Majeski told Speed51.com. “The biggest thing I learned today was how to race a big, heavy car. Manage brakes, which is something we don’t have to do a lot on the Late Model, and we had to do that today. I felt like I did a pretty good job at that. I had every bit of race car I needed for the end.”

Roulo Brothers Racing has not yet announced when Majeski will be back in the No. 17 car.

 

Roush development driver Ty Majeski set for ARCA debut

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NASCAR Next alumni Nicole Behar isn’t the only driver making their ARCA Racing Series debut this weekend.

Also in the field of the Montgomery Ward Father’s Day 200 at Madison International Speedway will be Roush Fenway Racing development driver and current NASCAR Next member, Ty Majeski.

Majeski, 21, was announced as the latest Roush development driver in May. He will drive the No. 17 Ford for Roulo Bros. Racing. They also fielded a car for Sprint Cup driver Chris Buescher when he was a Roush development driver.

Majeski, a native of Wisconsin, is already a winner at Madison. He won the May 1 ARCA Midwest Tour Joe Shear Classic at the half-mile track.

“We were able to test last week and I felt very comfortable in the car,” Majeski said in a press release. “The goal is to always be competitive and upfront, but I also know there is going to be a learning curve. I am excited to be making my first start.”

When Buescher competed for the Roulo brothers, he won the 10 races and claimed the 2012 ARCA title.

“Madison is a great place for us to be making our first start together,” said Gary Roulo in a press release. “Ty has had a lot of success here in late models, and as a team we won here in 2012 and finished second here in 2011 with Chris Buescher.”