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Former NASCAR owner Harry Scott passes away

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Harry Scott Jr., who owned NASCAR teams in the Cup, Xfinity, and K&N Pro Series East, died Wednesday. He was 51.

“We are shocked and saddened to confirm that Harry Scott, Jr., age 51, passed away yesterday, August 2, 2017,’’ the family said in a statement. “Harry will be remembered as a loving family man and successful business owner. We ask that everyone please keep Harry’s smile, generosity and essential kindness in your thoughts and prayers. Details about funeral services will be announced when they are finalized.”

NASCAR issued a statement: “Harry Scott Jr. possessed an endless passion for racing. Owning cars in the national series and the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, his crowning achievements were his NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championships. The sport was proud to have Harry as our champion owner during that storybook era. NASCAR extends its deepest condolences to his family and friends.”

Among those who drove for Scott were William Byron (K&N), Ben Rhodes (K&N), Kyle Larson (Cup & Xfinity), Bobby Labonte (Cup), Clint Bowyer (Cup), Justin Allgaier (Cup & Xfinity) and Michael Annett (Cup).

Scott entered NASCAR as a sponsor in 2008. In 2011, he became an owner in Turner Motorsports’ Xfinity team. In 2013, he became co-owner with Steve Turner of the rebranded Turner Scott Motorsports team.

Scott moved to Cup when he purchased James Finch’s Phoenix Racing team in 2013, forming HScott Motorsports. In 2014, Scott partnered with Justin Marks to form HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks in the K&N East Pro Series. Rhodes won the 2014 title. Byron won the 2015 series title.

Scott announced last year he would not be fielding any teams in 2017.

Hard to believe……Gonna miss your smile Harry, a lot.

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Jimmie Johnson defends his skiing, says: ‘I need to live my life’

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Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson goes skiing and biking. He’s got his Hendrick Motorsports teammates biking with him, including Dale Earnhardt Jr. Several other drivers are biking. Some have competed in triathlons.

Cup drivers are training in ways they have not done so before.

That can lead to risks.

Johnson was asked Friday if he worries about being injured while skiing in Colorado — where he and his family have been staying this season.

“I think about it,’’ Johnson said Friday at Texas Motor Speedway. “I think I manage my risks. I know that my team owner is at least OK with me being out there.

“I look at the video (skiing) that I posted recently. I’m on a very low-pitch, very wide-open, powder snow. That’s the best conditions. Nobody is around in this private area of the mountain. I feel that I was managing my risks pretty damn well to go into that environment.

“You can get run over by a car cycling, running. You can step off the curb in front of a bus. Again, I feel like every driver is willing to take certain risks for their fitness and to live their life. Me being on those skis, that’s more about living my life and doing something I enjoy. I’ve been doing this way too long.

“If I stay in this little quarantined area, I might go Carl Edwards, and I don’t want to do that. I need to live my life, and this is the way I do it. Sure, there’s a lot of drivers right now getting fit, a lot of guys are choosing to ride the bike. Someone is going to fall and get hurt. It just happens. I hope everybody in (the media) and our fans don’t overreact. We have to live our lives. We didn’t develop these out-of-control tendencies in a race car by sitting in a rubber room playing chess. We’ve got to live our lives.’’

The next time won’t be the first time a driver is injured training.

Bobby Labonte broke three ribs in a cycling accident in Aug. 2013 and missed scheduled starts at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Richmond International Raceway and Chicagoland Speedway for JTG Daugherty.

Spring time powder 👌

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Davey Allison, Bobby Labonte among new NASCAR Hall of Fame nominees

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Davey Allison and former champion Bobby Labonte are among the new nominees for the 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame class.

The 20 nominees were announced Wednesday on NASCAR  America.

The 15 nominees that remain from last year are joined by five new nominees: Car owners Joe Gibbs and Roger Penske and drivers Red Farmer, Allison and Labonte.

Allison, who died July 13, 1993, from injuries suffered in a helicopter accident at Talladega Superspeedway, won 19 times in 191 Cup starts. He was the 1987 Cup rookie of the year and won the 1992 Daytona 500.

Labonte won the 2000 Cup title and 21 series races. He won a Coca-Cola 600, a Southern 500 and a Brickyard 400 and was the 1991 Xfinity Series champion.

Farmer continues to compete into his 80s. He began racing in 1949 and is an original member of the famed “Alabama Gang.” He won the 1956 NASCAR modified championship and the NASCAR Late Model Sportsman title in 1967, ’70 and ’71.

Gibbs formed Joe Gibbs Racing in 1992. The team has won 140 Cup races and four Cup titles: Labonte in 2000, Tony Stewart in 2002 and 2005 and Kyle Busch in 2015. Gibbs’ teams have won 132 Xfinity races and five owner titles.

Penske first entered NASCAR in 1972. He was a car owner through 1977, returned for two races in 1980 and has been a Cup car owner since 1991. Team Penske won the 2012 Cup title and has 104 series wins, including Brad Keselowski’s victory last weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Here are the 15 nominees who remain from last year:

Buddy Baker: Won 19 times in NASCAR’s premier (now Sprint Cup) series, including the Daytona 500 and Southern 500.

Red Byron: First NASCAR premier series champion, in 1949.

Ray Evernham: Three-time NASCAR premier series championship crew chief.

Ray Fox: Legendary engine builder, crew chief and car owner.

Ron Hornaday: Four-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion.

Harry Hyde: 1970 NASCAR premier series championship crew chief.

Alan Kulwicki: 1992 NASCAR premier series champion.

Hershel McGriff: 1986 NASCAR west series champion.

Larry Phillips: Only five-time NASCAR weekly series national champion.

Jack Roush: Eight-time car owner champion in NASCAR’s three national series, winning two Cup titles, five in Xfinity and one in Trucks.

Ricky Rudd: Won 23 times in NASCAR’s premier series, including the 1997 Brickyard 400.

Ken Squier: Legendary radio and television broadcaster; inaugural winner / namesake of Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence.

Mike Stefanik: Winner of record-tying nine NASCAR championships.

Waddell Wilson: Won three NASCAR premier series championships as an engine builder.

Robert Yates: Won NASCAR premier series championship as both an engine builder and owner.

Also, the five nominees for the Landmark Award were announced. They are (in alphabetical order):

Jim France: Executive vice president of NASCAR and son of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. has played a key role behind the scenes in the sport.

Janet Guthrie: First female to compete in the Daytona 500 (1977).

Alvin Hawkins: NASCAR’s first flagman who helped establish NASCAR racing at Bowman Gray Stadium with NASCAR founder Bill France Sr.

Ralph Seagraves: Formed groundbreaking Winston-NASCAR partnership as executive with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.

Ken Squier: Legendary radio and television broadcaster; inaugural winner / namesake of Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence.

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Atlanta to host 2,500th race in Cup history, last on current surface

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This weekend’s NASCAR action at Atlanta Motor Speedway, with all three major series running, will provide some interesting storylines.

First and perhaps most important, Sunday’s Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500 will be the last race ever held on the current track surface.

A complete repaving of the 1.54-mile high-speed quad oval track is slated to begin later this spring.

To make Sunday’s race all the more unique and momentous, it also will be the 2,500th race in Cup history.

AMS, which first opened in 1960, has had the same racing surface for the last 20 years, since its last repaving in spring 1997. That makes it the second oldest current surface in NASCAR.

During that time, it has played host to 31 NASCAR Cup Series races, 19 Xfinity Series races and 15 Camping World Truck Series events.

Among some of the highlights over the years on the outgoing surface:

* Dale Earnhardt’s 0.01-second margin of victory over Bobby Labonte in 2000. It would be Earnhardt’s 75th career Cup win and the second-to-last win of his storied career (won at Talladega that October).

* In his third Cup start after the tragic death of Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500, Kevin Harvick would take the re-numbered No. 29 to victory lane at Atlanta, capturing a 0.006-second margin of victory over Jeff Gordon.

* Carl Edwards’ first Cup win and the first of two wins for him in both Atlanta races in 2005.

* AMS’s first-ever night race in 2009.

* Sunday marks AMS’s 102nd 500-mile race. No other track on the circuit has hosted as many races of that length.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Sunday also could be a big day for defending and seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson.

Having won both the 2015 and 2016 Cup races at AMS, Johnson is looking to become the first driver in track history to win three consecutive races there.

NASCAR Hall of Famer Fred Lorenzen won four times in as many years (1961 to 1964) at AMS, but they weren’t consecutive. Another Hall of Famer, Cale Yarborough, also won three straight spring races (1967 to 1969), but failed to win any of the fall races those same years at the track.

Johnson is also looking to extend his overall supremacy at the track, being the only active driver to have ever won there five times in a career (all on the current racing surface).

NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt holds the record for most wins ever at AMS with nine triumphs.

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Tony Stewart retirement leaves one less driver who was ever Intimidated

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When NASCAR’s best gather in Las Vegas this weekend for the Sprint Cup Awards, someone needs to take a very specific picture.

The people who pose for the picture are part of a very exclusive club. It’s a club that stopped accepting members on Feb. 18, 2001 and loses members almost every year.

This picture would feature full-time Sprint Cup drivers who once raced against seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt Sr.

Had the club portrait been taken just last year the group of drivers would have included Bobby Labonte, Michael Waltrip,  Jeff Gordon (with the knowledge he’d be a substitute driver in 2016) and Tony Stewart.

Now Stewart is retired from NASCAR competition and Gordon is really retired. Labonte and Waltrip have not announced plans for next season.

How large is the club’s membership now 15 years after Earnhardt died in a last-lap crash in the 2001 Daytona 500?

When the green flag drops on the 59th Daytona 500 on Feb. 26, only four drivers in the field – Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch – will be able to boast that.

The last addition to the club of the four was Newman.

Two years before his rookie season in 2002, Newman made his Cup debut in the Checker Auto Parts / Dura Lube 500k at Phoenix International Raceway. At 22, Newman started 10th and finished 41st after engine problems. Earnhardt started 31st and finished ninth.

Busch made eight starts against Earnhardt, the first coming on Sept. 24, 2000 in the MBNA.com 400 at Dover International Speedway.

His eighth start was the 2001 Daytona 500. Years later, Busch proudly lays claim to being one of, if not the last driver, to ever be Intimidated.

The moment came on Lap 85, with Busch and Earnhardt running next to each other in the top five. Busch was driving the No. 97 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing.

“My ‘Welcome to NASCAR Moment’ was probably the finger out the window from Dale at Daytona,” Busch told the Las-Vegas Review Journal in 2011. “It was my first Daytona 500, and I got the finger out the window. I thought I was minding my own business in the middle lane, but when it’s Senior, you gotta move over and let him through.

“He was on his way to the front.”

Earnhardt Jr. and Kenseth will be the only full-time Cup drivers in 2017 who competed in a full season against Earnhardt Sr.

Both drivers had their rookie seasons in 2000, with Kenseth winning Rookie of the Year. But both made five starts in 1999, with Earnhardt Jr.’s first coming in the Coca-Cola 600.

However it’s Kenseth, now 44, who made the earliest start against the Man in Black.

On Sept. 20, 1998, at the age of 26, Kenseth was called on to substitute for Bill Elliott in the MBNA Gold 400 at Dover.

Driving Elliott’s No. 94 McDonald’s Ford, Kenseth started 16th and finished sixth. Earnhardt, starting last, finished 23rd.

Other active NASCAR drivers (in 2016) who competed against Dale Earnhardt Sr.

Elliott Sadler (33 Xfinity Series in 2016)

Morgan Shepherd (23 Xfinity starts in 2016)

Jeff Green (29 Xfinity starts in 2016)

Derrike Cope (24 Xfinity starts in 2016)

Mike Bliss (Three Xfinity and Truck Series starts in 2016)

Joe Nemechek (Two Xfinity starts in 2016)

Hermie Sadler (Two Xfinity starts in 2016)

Todd Bodine (One Xfinity start in 2016)

Ken Schrader (One Truck start in 2016)