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Todd Gilliland lands six-race sponsorship with Pedigree in Truck Series

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Todd Gilliland‘s Camping World Truck Series debut and five more races this year will be sponsored by Pedigree.

The son of former NASCAR Cup driver David Gilliland, the 17-year-old Gilliland will make his Truck debut on June 2 at Dover International Speedway in the No. 46 Toyota owned by Kyle Busch Motorsports.

The 2016 K&N Pro Series West champion will also drive the No. 46 at Martinsville Speedway (Oct. 28.)

Pedigree will also sponsor Gilliland in four races in the No. 51 Toyota. After Dover, Gilliland will race at Gateway Motorsports Park (June 17),  Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (Sept. 3), New Hampshire Motor Speedway (Sept. 23) and Phoenix Raceway (Nov. 10).

“I’m proud to have a sponsor as well-known as Pedigree join us at Kyle Busch Motorsports this season,” Gilliland said in a press release. “There’s a family connection with Pedigree, as they were the sponsor on my Dad’s car in 2006. It’s a great feeling to know that they have confidence in me and this race team. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to get behind the wheel, earn solid finishes and hopefully get Pedigree to Victory Lane this season.”

Through five races in the K&N West season this year, Gilliland has won every pole and won four races. He has 11 wins in 20 starts dating back to 2015.

Kyle Busch Motorsports also announced the addition of two Truck races to Busch’s schedule. He will drive the No. 46 at Kentucky Speedway (July 6) and Bristol Motor Speedway (Aug.16). He will be sponsored by Banfield Pet Hospital.

 

Father of ex-Truck driver Justin Boston indicted on charges of fraud which funded racing career

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The father of former Camping World Truck Series driver Justin Boston is part of an indictment that includes charges of fraud totaling at least $25 million, some of which funded his racing career.

In an April 18 indictment unsealed Friday, Robert Boston and Robert LaBarge were indicted on four counts of fraud and one count of money-laundering conspiracy by the Western District of North Carolina.

The duo appeared Friday in U.S. District Court in Charlotte where they pleaded not guilty. Boston was released on his $25,000 bond, according to ESPN.

Boston and LaBarge were indicted with one count of conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud; one count of wire fraud; one count of securities fraud; one count of bank fraud; and one count of money-laundering conspiracy. LaBarge was also charged with one count of false writing in connection with a FBI investigation

If convicted on all charges, the combined maximum prison sentence for Boston, 53, totals 60 years.

“Mr. Boston has asserted his innocence to all of charges by entry of his not guilty plea,” Boston’s attorney Kevin Tate said in a statement to ESPN. “He has no comment pending the resolution of this matter.”

Justin Boston competed for Kyle Busch Motorsports in nine Truck races to begin the 2015 season. In two of those races, his primary sponsor was Zloop, his father’s electronics recycling company.

KBM eventually released Boston and sued him and Zloop for missed payments totaling $650,000.

That lawsuit is pending due to Zloop’s bankruptcy proceedings, according to ESPN.

The unsealed indictment details the allegations against Boston and LaBarge, alleging they “defrauded franchisees, investors, and lenders of their company, Zloop. The indictment alleges that, through their fraud, the defendants obtained millions of dollars, much of which was spent on expensive personal real estate, a private plane, and the racing career of Boston’s son.”

The indictment also alleges the duo used a fraudulent line of credit with Patriot Bank to spend “hundreds of thousands of dollars” on “a private plane, a new Corvette, and a new Grand Cherokee. After Zloop subsequently drew an additional $1.3 million from the credit card line, the indictment alleges that more than $500,000 was spent on racing-related expenditures and approximately $79,808 on a suite at a professional football stadium.”

William Byron focuses on Xfinity ride; not replacing Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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William Byron says he’s focused on his rookie season in the Xfinity Series.

That’s fine, but others wonder if he’ll take over the No. 88 car when Dale Earnhardt Jr. retires at the end of this Cup season.

Hendrick Motorsports officials have not stated who they would consider for that ride.

Byron said Friday that he wants to race Cup at some point — what young Xfintiy driver doesn’t? — but he has more pressing concerns.

“Every one of us wants to race in the Cup series,’’ Byron said at Richmond International Raceway. “That’s the ultimate goal. I’d be ready for anything I think.

“Right now it’s just focusing on what I can do at (JR Motorsports) and see what we can do the rest of the year and hopefully compete for a championship.’’

The 19-year-old, who has a driver development contract with Hendrick Motorsports, has rocketed up NASCAR’s ranks since he started racing a Legends car in 2012.

Byron won the K&N Pro Series East title in 2015, won a rookie record seven Camping World Truck races in 2016 and led Kyle Busch Motorsports to the owners title. He has two top-five finishes in seven Xfinity starts this season as a rookie.

While there are different tactics to bringing drivers to Cup, Kyle Larson and Joey Logano are among those who moved quickly to Cup.

Larson ran four Truck races and a full Xfinity season before moving to Cup for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2014.

Logano ran one Truck race and 19 Xfinity races before his rookie Cup season in 2009.

While Logano endured struggles, he said Friday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that moving up to Cup quickly can be a good thing.

“I think the only way you get better is racing people better than you,’’ Logano said on the show. “So when you put yourself in a very challenging position, you’re going to get better. Right? If you don’t get beat up too bad that you lose all your confidence and you get thrown out of the sport too quick.

“If you lose the opportunity of driving a Cup car because you got into it too green, you weren’t ready for it. That would be a downfall. Everything else is good because you’re going to make the mistakes and mistakes are a good thing as long as you learn from them.’’

Elliott Sadler, a teammate to Byron at JR Motorsports, praised the young driver’s ability Friday.

“He’s got it,’’ Sadler said. “He’s a guy that is going to go Cup and understands it. I think once he understands these tracks and these races and setting your car up for the longevity of them and making adjustments and stuff like that, once he gets all that down, he’s going to win a bunch of races, not only in Xfinity but also in the Cup Series.

“I’m not sure what his future holds, but my job as a teammate, with the experience, is to try to prepare him and help him as much as I can because the better he runs, the better for all of us at the entire company.’’

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Christopher Bell dominates for Truck Series win at Atlanta

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It was a Bell-ringing day in Saturday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Active Pest Control 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Pole-sitter Christopher Bell won the first two stages of the event, then regained the lead late after a caution to claim his third career Truck win in 32 starts.

Following a late caution brought out by an Austin Cindric spin, Bell had a great restart with two laps left, holding off a strong charge by former Truck Series champion Matt Crafton.

“This thing was really fast all weekend,” Bell told FS1 in victory lane. “It was a dream machine. It was really, really good.”

Added Crafton, “We had a shot. At the end of the day that was what it all about. It was close.”

MORE: Results of Active Pest Control 200 Truck Series Race At Atlanta

MORE: Bell Takes Over Camping World Truck Series Points Lead After Atlanta Win

Bell dominated the first two stages, leading the first 83 laps. When the third stage began, teammate and team owner Kyle Busch gained the lead coming off pit road, with Bell alongside on the front row.

Busch seemed headed to the win, but he fell back and then cut a tire, making contact with the outside wall and ending his chances at the checkered flag. He finished 26th.

Bell ultimately led 99 laps in the 130-lap event.

Crafton finished second, followed by Johnny Sauter, Ben Rhodes and Chase Elliott. Sixth through 10th were Alex Bowman, Austin Dillon, Grant Enfinger, Timothy Peters and Ross Chastain.

Prior to the Truck race, Busch won the Xfinity Series’ Rinnai 250 earlier in the afternoon and was seeking a three-race sweep, including Sunday’s featured Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500 NASCAR Cup race. He still can go 2 for 3.

STAGE 1 (Laps 1-40) WINNER: Christopher Bell.

STAGE 2 (Laps 41-80) WINNER: Christopher Bell.

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: It was a good day for Truck Series regulars, who claimed the top four spots and six of the first nine spots. … Chase Elliott, who made only his second Truck Series start since 2013, finished fifth.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Last year’s race winner, John Hunter Nemechek, was knocked out of the race when a right-side tire blew out and sent him into the wall on Lap 79. Nemechek finished 28th. … After avoiding a crash on the first lap and improving from 17th to ninth over the next 25 laps, NASCAR On NBC analyst Parker Kligerman lost power in his truck under caution on Lap 28. He coasted to a stop on the back straightaway. He was unable to get restarted and finished 31st in the 32-truck field.

NOTABLE: Surprising Daytona winner Kaz Grala finished 15th. … Japanese driver Akinori Ogata, making his sixth career Truck start and first of 2017, was involved in a late Stage 2 incident that ended his day with a 30th place finish.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Please, please do not repave this racetrack. This is, by far, the coolest racetrack that we race on.” – Runner-up Matt Crafton on FS1 (AMS will begin repaving the entire track following Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race).

WHAT’S NEXT: The Truck Series is off for the next four weeks. The next race is April 1 at Martinsville Speedway.

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Noah Gragson driving with heavy heart after death of crew member’s wife

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img_4155Noah Gragson, a rookie driver for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Camping World Truck Series, is competing with a heavy heart tonight after the death of a crew member’s wife just before Friday’s race.

Stephanie Merritt, the wife of team mechanic Jeff Merritt, died from injuries sustained in an auto accident two weeks ago.

Gragson, 18, gave an emotional interview with Fox Sports 1 prior to the NextEra Energy Resources 250.

“One of my guys back home, Jeff, we had a hard loss a couple of minutes ago,” Gragson said. “His wife passed away. They got in a car wreck over the offseason. He worked really, really hard on this truck. We’re going to go out there and drive as hard as we can today for him, for Stephanie.”

The stickers shown above is on Gragson’s truck.

Gragson, driving the No. 18, will start 12th is his third race in the Truck Series.

He was eliminated in a 17-truck crash on the second lap. He was hit from behind and sent into the wall, triggering the incident.