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SunnyD extends sponsorship deal with Roush Fenway Racing

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SunnyD has extended its contract with Roush Fenway Racing to sponsor Ricky Stenhouse Jr.‘s team through the 2019 season, the organization announced Tuesday.

SunnyD will add races as primary sponsor each season, although how many was not announced.

The company has been the primary sponsor of Stenhouse’s car in three races this season – Atlanta, spring Bristol and Indianapolis. SunnyD will next sponsor Stenhouse in October at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“We’ve had a great time partnering with SunnyD the last two years,” Stenhouse in a statement from the team. “It’s one of the coolest paint schemes on the track, and we’ve had a lot of fun promoting their classic brand. I’m excited that we have extended our relationship, and I can’t wait to see how much fun we can have with SunnyD in victory lane.”

“We are very excited to announce that we tore up the old contract and signed a new one that extends for another season and adds additional races with Ricky and Roush Fenway,” said Henk Hartong, Chairman of Harvest Hill Beverage Company, owners of the SunnyD brand, in a statement. “I’m very proud of our relationship with Jack Roush, Steve Newmark and the entire Roush Fenway team. It is something that we wanted to lock in for the foreseeable future. Ricky is one of the rising young stars in NASCAR and we have seen great response to the program from the passionate NASCAR fans.  We are pleased to bolster our association with him and Roush Fenway.”

Stenhouse has two wins this year and will be in next month’s playoffs.

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Sonoma Raceway central to launching Kurt Busch’s NASCAR career

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Kurt Busch has one NASCAR Cup Series win at Sonoma Raceway, in 2011 when he drove the No. 22 Ford for Team Penske.

But if it weren’t for a win on the road course in a different series in 1999, the native of Las Vegas might not have gotten the chance to take a crack at NASCAR’s top series, where he won the 2004 Cup title and eventually the Daytona 500.

Busch first drove at Sonoma in 1998 as a 19-year-old in the NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Tour. He qualified 19th and went on to finish third.

A year later, on the way to the Southwest Tour championship, Busch returned to Sonoma and won after qualifying third and leading 31 of 64 laps.

“That was my first win in a stock car at a road course,” Busch said in a team release. “I’ve always believed that Saturday race was the most important stage to stand on because there wasn’t a Truck Series race or an Xfinity Series race. Back in the day, the Southwest Tour race was the support race, and my race was live on ESPN. I’ve always thought Sonoma helped springboard me into the spotlight, and I’m very thankful for that chance.”

If there actually was a springboard, it would say “property of Jack Roush.”

The owner of Roush Fenway Racing witnessed Busch’s 1999 Sonoma win. Busch then went on to win six races and the championship. All of that resulted in Busch receiving an invitation to try out for Roush’s Camping World Truck Series team in an event nicknamed “The Gong Show.”

Busch won the event and a spot with Roush. In 2000, Busch competed in his rookie season in the Truck Series, winning four races in 24 starts and finishing second in the standings. The next year, Busch was starting full-time in Roush’s No. 97 Ford in the Cup Series.

Sixteen years later, Busch is looking for his follow-up to winning the Daytona 500, but he’s also looking for just his second road course victory of his Cup career. He’s never won at Watkins Glen International.

Busch enters this weekend’s race at Sonoma with an average finish of 8.9 at the road course and seven top fives in 16 starts. The most recent was in 2015, when came in second to his brother, Kyle Busch.

“We could’ve won this race two years ago and I finished second to my little brother Kyle in the first Busch one-two finish,” Busch said. “Last year we just burned the rear tires off of the car. We just have to get a hang of the tires that are constantly changing to get our Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford where we want it to be.”

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Darrell Wallace Jr. to drive No. 43 at Pocono; first African-American in Cup since 2006

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Darrell Wallace Jr. will become the third African-American since 1976 to compete in a NASCAR Cup race, driving the No. 43 Ford for Aric Almirola this weekend at Pocono Raceway, Richard Petty Motorsports announced Monday.

The team stated that Wallace will drive the No. 43 while Almirola recovers from injuries suffered in a crash last month.

“Driving the famed 43 car is an unbelievable opportunity for any race car driver,” Wallace in a release from the team. “With all that Richard Petty has contributed to the sport, I’m honored to start my first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event with this team. I’m incredibly grateful that Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports and Smithfield have the confidence in me to help fill the seat until Aric (Almirola) fully recovers, which is the most important piece of this.

“Moving up to the Monster Energy Series is a tremendous challenge, but I am ready to represent this organization, help the 43 team get the best results possible and prove that I belong at this level.”

Wallace will be the first African-American to start a Cup race in more than a decade. Bill Lester, the last African-American to drive in Cup, competed in two series races in 2006. His last start came June 18, 2006 at Michigan. He finished 32nd.

Other African-Americans who competed in at least one race in NASCAR’s premier series include NASCAR Hall of Famer Wendell Scott (1961-1973) , Willy T. Ribbs (1986),  Charlie Scott (1956), Elias Bowie (1955), Randy Bethea (1975) and George Wiltshire (1971, ’75). 

Wendell Scott won one race in 495 starts. Ribbs drove in three races in 1986. His last Cup start was June 15, 1986, at Michigan. He finished 39th. Charlie Scott ran one race. Bowie ran one race. Betheat compete in one race. Wiltshire drove in one race in 1971 and ’75.

Almirola has been out since suffering a T5 compression fracture in a crash May 13. He is expected to be out two to three months. Regan Smith drove for Almirola in the Monster Energy Open, the Coca-Cola 600 and last weekend at Dover International Speedway.

Wallace’s opportunity comes as the 23-year-old’s future seemed in question in the Xfinity Series. His Roush Fenway Racing team had sponsorship set only through this weekend’s race at Pocono. Roush Fenway Racing announced it would suspend the No. 6 Xfinity team after this weekend.

Wallace was visibly upset with failing to win Saturday’s Xfinity race at Dover. After winning a stage, Wallace lost track position on a restart and finished eighth. Wallace leaned against his car after the race on pit road with his head down. Car owner Jack Roush sought to console Wallace. Eventually, Wallace tossed a sports drink bottle as he walked away from the car.

“Heartbreak day,’’ Wallace said a few moments later. “We have one more race left and this one was the one we were going to win, for sure. It just didn’t happen. We can’t get any luck. I got a little sideways on that one restart and it cost us a little bit. It would have been nice to get the $100,000 and bought us our Michigan race that we don’t have.”

Wallace has 83 career Xfinity starts. He has zero wins, six top-five finishes and 34 top 10s.

In the Camping World Truck Series, Wallace had five wins, 14 top fives and 26 top 10s in 44 starts.

“I think he’s very determined and I think that determination has turned into results over the last coupe of months,” 2014 Cup champion Kevin Harvick said of Wallace’s move to Cup. “If you look at where they are performance-wise from the start of the year … he’s definitely earned an opportunity to go out there and try to make something out of it.’’

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NASCAR America: Jack Roush sits down with Jeff Burton to talk his team’s big win

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Very few people know Jack Roush better than his former driver and now NBC Sports analysts Jeff Burton.

Burton sat down with Roush a few days after Ricky Stenhouse Jr.‘s big win at Talladega Superspeedway to discuss his team’s revival this season, two years after their last win.

“It’s hard to keep your chin up sometimes through a drought, but you have to have the spirit and people’s excitement to drive you to heights they might not otherwise reach,” Roush said.

Roush and Stenhouse’s breakthrough win came after the team contracted two Cup cars prior to this season. With Greg Biffle‘s departure, Roush’s hopes are behind Stenhouse and Trevor Bayne.

“We thought as we recommitted ourselves and got ourselves organized on 2017, that we need to focus on the two young drivers and not focus on Greg’s program,” Roush said. “I was limited in the number of talented people I had for pit crew, I was limited in the number of talented people I had for engineers and technical positions. I thought it was better to concentrate the efforts on two programs, rather thin them on three.”

Watch the video for the full exclusive interview.

NASCAR America: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. relives Talladega win with owner, crew chief

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It had been a long time since Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had won a NASCAR race.

He hadn’t been to victory lance since 2012 in the Xfinity Series. After 158 starts in the Cup Series, Stenhouse finally drove his No 17 Ford to a win at Talladega Superspeedway.

“I remember how it feels now. it feels really good, ” Stenhouse told NASCAR America.

Stenhouse, owner Jack Roush and crew chief Brian Pattie sat down with NASCAR America to recount their win on Sunday.

Stenhouse said his winning drive Sunday was the “hardest I’ve probably driven a race car, ever.”

Said Roush,”The closing laps of a restrictor-plate race is all about energy and momentum. It’s about having a spotter and/or a driver that on its own knows what decision to make and which lane to go with.”

With his spotter Mike Hermon, telling him when and where to defend on the last lap, Stenhouse became the widest car on the track as Kyle Busch and Jamie McMurray threw everything they had at him.

“It seemed like it took forever to get to the start-finish line off of (Turn 4),” Stenhouse said. “Which, Talladega it is different than other tracks in that it’s not dead center in the straightaway, it’s further down and man, I couldn’t believe we crossed it first.”

Watch the video for more of their thoughts on their big win.