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Kaz Grala joining JGL Racing full-time in Xfinity next season

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Kaz Grala will make the move to the Xfinity Series in 2018 when he competes full-time in the No. 24 Ford for JGL Racing, the team announced Friday.

Grala, 18, makes the move after one season in the Camping World Truck Series with GMS Racing. Grala earned one win, in the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway. He is the youngest driver to win a national NASCAR race at Daytona.

Multiple drivers piloted the No. 24 this season, including Dylan Lupton, Corey LaJoie, Jeb Burton and Drew Herring. JGL Racing also fielded the No. 28 for Dakoda Armstrong, but the car hasn’t run since Kentucky due to a lack of sponsorship.

“I am beyond excited about the opportunity to drive for JGL Racing next year full-time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series,” Grala said in a press release. “I’ve been watching Xfinity races since I was a little kid, so to be able to compete at that high of a level is nothing short of a dream come true. I can’t thank James Whitener (owner of JGL Racing) and everyone at JGL enough for this opportunity.”

Grala has five top fives and an average finish of 14.1 in the No. 33 truck ahead of tonight’s season finale in the Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

JGL Racing’s move from Toyota to Ford coincides with the team entering a technical alliance with Roush Fenway Racing.

“These are exciting times for the JGL Racing organization,” Whitener said in a press release.  “We appreciate the support we have received from Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing over the last few years. We felt that in order for our team to make the next step in our growth process that we needed a more robust technical alliance behind us – and this opportunity with Ford Performance and Roush Fenway Racing provided us that and made the most sense. We look forward to finishing out the season in our No. 24 car and then we will turn our attention to 2018 and getting all of the proper pieces into place.”

Matt Kenseth to drive rookie paint scheme in Cup season finale

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In likely their last NASCAR starts together, Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will get to race like it’s 2000.

Joe Gibbs Racing revealed Tuesday that Kenseth, who is making his last start for the team Sunday in the Ford EcoBoost 400 (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC), will sport his rookie paint scheme.

The No. 20 DeWalt Toyota will look like the N0. 17 Ford Kenseth drove 17 years ago when he competed for Roush Fenway Racing and won the Cup Rookie of the Year Award in a DeWalt-sponsored car.

He joins Earnhardt in driving his rookie paint scheme in the race.

Earnhardt’s No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet will look like the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet he drove in the 2000 Cup season.

MORE: Budweiser pays tribute to Dale Jr.

Kenseth enters the race after earning his 39th Cup win at Phoenix Raceway.

Earnhardt tweeted after Sunday’s race that when he went to congratulate Kenseth on his win, his friend said “one for the old guys!”

Kenseth and Earnhardt’s NASCAR careers began in tandem. They competed against each other in the Xfinity Series from 1998-99 before making the jump to Cup full-time in 2000.

“We did a lot of things, together,” Earnhardt said last Friday. “We supported each other and enjoyed seeing each other have success.  Matt, I love his sense of humor, I love the person he is and the person he has become, the father he is. … Since the very beginning have always been at most race tracks, probably 80 or 90 percent of them we have been neighbors in the bus lot.

“And so, you know he has always had an influence on me as far as how I race or the person I want to be or become.  It’s just been a great friendship … this year he rides and I ride (bicycles), so we cycle a lot on Friday’s together and he jokes all the time when we found out about the news about (wife) Amy’s pregnancy he joked that he was angry he didn’t get a text from me before he read about it on social media.  So, that is the kind of friend he is.  He expects to be one of those guys that you text when you have that kind of news and I love that about Matt and I love that he thinks that is our friendship that we have.

“Because that will be with us long after we are done driving.  And I hate to think that he if finished knowing that he wants to continue to compete.  I know that he wants to race and I think he can obviously still be competitive and I hope that he gets the opportunity he wants to be able to continue.  It’s going to make Homestead even more emotional because we came in together.”

Earnhardt and Kenseth are the only drivers from the 2000 rookie class still competing in NASCAR. Xfinity Series driver Elliott Sadler is the only other full-time driver from that season still competing full-time in NASCAR.

Roush Fenway Racing honoring Robert Yates at Phoenix with special paint scheme

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Roush Fenway Racing will honor the late Robert Yates this weekend at Phoenix Raceway with a classic Robert Yates Racing paint scheme.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.‘s No. 17 Ford will be inspired by the Havoline sponsored No. 28 Ford Davey Allison won with at Phoenix in 1991 and 1992.

The logo of Robert Yates Racing, which won 57 Cup races and 48 pole positions, will be on the hood of the car.

Via: Roush Fenway Racing

Yates died on Oct. 2 at 74 after a battle with liver cancer. Yates, who won the 1999 Cup title with Dale Jarrett, will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in January.

In 2003, Yates and Jack Roush formed Roush Yates Engines, the exclusive provider of engines for Ford NASCAR teams.

“The entire NASCAR Community has lost a pillar of our sport with the passing of Robert Yates,” Roush said in a press release. “Robert was true to all he held dear – a fierce competitor, a dedicated and inspired leader and a passionate family man. For me he was the type of competitor that brought out the best in everyone around him and he was a wonderful partner and friend. I am very fortunate to have been able to team up with, and learn from, Robert Yates.”

Stenhouse, who has taken Roush-Yates engines to victory lane twice the year (Talladega, Daytona II), will look to give Ford its second Phoenix win since 2013. His best finish at the 1-mile track in nine starts is fourth last March. It’s his only finish better than 12th at the track.

“It’s really cool to be able to honor Robert with our car in Phoenix,” Stenhouse said in a press release. “He’s meant so much to NASCAR, and to have him ride along with us this weekend will be really special for everyone at the shop.”

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Cup test begins today at Homestead-Miami Speedway

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Eight teams, including five in the playoffs, are scheduled to take part in an organizational test today and Thursday at Homestead-Miami Speedway in preparation for the Nov. 19 race that will crown the Cup champion.

Each organization is permitted to have one team at the test. Not all organizations are participating.

Scheduled to test are:

Martin Truex Jr. (Furniture Row Racing)

Denny Hamlin (Joe Gibbs Racing)

Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick Motorsports)

Brad Keselowski (Team Penske)

Ryan Blaney (Wood Brothers Racing)

Kyle Larson (Chip Ganassi Racing)

Clint Bowyer (Stewart-Haas Racing)

Trevor Bayne (Roush Fenway Racing)

Each manufacturer will have its own car. Alex Bowman will drive the Chevrolet car, Landon Cassill will drive the Ford car, and Drew Herring will drive the Toyota car.

Testing is set to go from noon – 7 p.m. ET today and 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Thursday.

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Wood Brothers playoff run could be worth $1 million to another Cup team

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JOLIET, Illinois — Car owner Archie St. Hilaire is nine weeks away from what could be a $1 million payout after winning the equivalent of the NASCAR lottery.

When Ryan Blaney won at Pocono in June to make the playoffs, it wasn’t just the Wood Brothers who celebrated. Although Matt DiBenedetto finished 32nd for St. Hilaire’s team that day, St. Hilaire says he was “hooting and hollering’’ when Blaney held off Kevin Harvick to win.

A victory for the Wood Brothers also was a victory for St. Hilaire’s team.

Go Fas Racing benefits because it leased its charter to the Wood Brothers before the season — something teams can do once in a five-year period.

The decision to lease the charter before this season was easy for St. Hilaire. Any team that finishes in the bottom three among charter teams for three consecutive years can lose its charter to NASCAR. Last year, Go Fas Racing finished in the bottom three among charter teams.

“I think NASCAR is pretty serious of the bottom three and you’re out,’’ St. Hilaire told NBC Sports at Chicagoland Speedway. “The marketability of one being in the bottom three two years in a row probably decreases. The first year, you’re the negotiator and the second year, they’re the negotiator and you’re trying to bail out to not be in the bottom three.’’

When St. Hilaire partnered with the Wood Brothers, he admits he thought about the extra money he could receive if the Wood Brothers made the playoffs.

Charters fund Cup teams in four different ways. There’s money for entering each event, race purse, points fund and historical performance.

St. Hilaire says his team received less than $100,000 last year from the historical category. He says that total could be close to $1 million based on how well Blaney does in the playoffs. Blaney is 10th after the first of three races in the opening round. The top 12 advance to the second round.

“I’m rooting for them,’’ St. Hilaire said of Blaney and the Wood Brothers.

For a team with about a budget of about $5.5 million, adding $1 million could increase the budget by nearly 20 percent.

“That’s all funds that we’ll use to race in the future and make us a better team,’’ said St. Hilaire, whose team ranks 33rd in the owner standings heading into Sunday’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

The better Blaney does in the playoffs, the more valuable the charter becomes.

St. Hilaire, though, must decide what to do with the charter when it is returned after this season. He could keep it and take the money. Or he could sell the charter since it is worth more with the increase in the historical category.

There are a few teams that could be candidates for charters. The Wood Brothers won’t have one for next season after returning their charter to Go Fas Racing. Also, Team Penske will expand to a third car for Blaney and could use a charter. Already, JTG Daugherty has purchased a charter for the No. 37 of Chris Buescher for next season after leasing a charter from Roush Fenway Racing this year.

Should St. Hilaire sell his charter, he’ll lease one like he did this season. After leasing his charter to the Wood Brothers, St Hilaire leased a charter from Richard Petty Motorsports.

There could be many other options for St. Hilarie to lease charters next year.

“I just don’t see that being too hard to find,’’ St. Hilaire said. “We’re talking to about four people. They’re available.’’

He also said he would consider acquiring two charters to run a second team provided a driver can bring funding to the team.

Whatever St. Hilaire does with the charter, he knows what he wants to do with the expected extra money.

“We don’t even have an engineering package,’’ St. Hilaire said. “We’re checking old-fashioned tire temps, spring rates. Matt does a great job. (Crew chief Gene Nead) does a great job. That would be our next step, to get engineering help.’’

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