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Jeffrey Earnhardt doing all he can to keep famous surname going in NASCAR Cup

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His famous uncle may have retired at the end of the 2017 season, but Jeffrey Earnhardt is doing all he can to keep the Earnhardt surname going in NASCAR in 2018.

Earnhardt, who lost his ride last month when The Motorsports Group parted ways with partner Circle Sport, is pursuing sponsorship for a 2018 Cup ride.

Earnhardt is a fourth-generation racer, preceded by great-grandfather Ralph, grandfather Dale Sr., father Kerry and uncle Dale Jr.

If the youngest member of the Earnhardt racing clan does not appear in the Daytona 500 — or any race in 2018, for that matter — it would mark the first time since 1975 that a member of the famous Earnhardt family has not appeared in at least one Cup race in a season.

It would also be the first time since 1979 that there hasn’t been an Earnhardt who has raced full-time in the Cup ranks.

According to a post on Jeffrey Earnhardt’s Facebook page by a crew member, “We found an incredible opportunity that requires a certain level of sponsorship to make things work. In a very short period of time we’ve put together most of the puzzle. Out of respect for all involved Jeffrey has to maintain confidentiality until there is 100% certainty in sponsorship. With the Daytona 500 not far away this deal has to come together in weeks not months. Urgency to execute is understatement.”

 

Circle Sport parts ways with The Motorsports Group

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The Motorsports Group announced Tuesday that it is parting ways with Circle Sport, a “sudden” move decided upon by Circle Sport owner Joe Falk on Monday.

As Circle Sport with The Motorsports Group, the two managed the No. 33 Chevrolet primarily driven by Jeffrey Earnhardt in 2017. Boris Said drove it in two races.

TMG said it plans to field its own Chevrolet in 2018. It does not have a driver or sponsor attached yet.

“This is sudden for us, but we put a plan together rather quickly,” TMG owner Curtis Key Sr. said in a press release. “We’ve had discussions with potential drivers, but it’s only been a day since the news and we have more calls to make. We look to have a driver announce(d) in early January.”

Circle Sport owns the charter used on the No. 33. Circle Sport did not respond to a request for comment.

ESPN reports Earnhardt, the grandson of Dale Earnhardt Sr. and nephew of Dale Earnhardt Jr., was released from a contract extension by the team and is in search of a ride.

Eddie Pardue will stay with TMG as crew chief. He assumed the duties on the No. 33 following the July Daytona race.

Earnhardt’s best finish in 34 starts was 26th three times.

Before the teams merged for 2017, The Motorsports Group fielded the No. 30 Chevrolet in 2016.

Silly Season Scorecard: Holiday edition

Photo: Richard Petty Motorsports
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Richard Petty Motorsports’ announcement Friday that it will switch to Chevrolet and partner with Richard Childress Racing in 2018 will help make it a good holiday season for both organizations.

The move continued what has been a long and eventful Silly Season in Cup. And it’s not finished with still some rides remaining.

Here’s a look at where Silly Season stands about two months before cars are back on track at Daytona International Speedway.

ANNOUNCED RIDES FOR 2018

Ray Black Jr. joins Rick Ware Racing and will drive the No. 51 car (announcement made Nov. 22)

Aric Almirola joins Stewart-Haas Racing and will drive the No. 10 car (announcement made Nov. 8)

Darrell Wallace Jr. joins Richard Petty Motorsports and will drive the No. 43 car (announcement made Oct. 25)

Jeffrey Earnhardt returns to the No. 33 car at Circle Sport Racing (announcement made Oct. 15)

Kasey Kahne joins Leavine Family Racing and will drive the No. 95 car. (announcement made Sept. 19)

Ty Dillon signs a multi-year contract to remain at Germain Racing and drive the No. 13 car. Sponsor Geico also extends its deal with the team (announcement made Sept. 5)

Chris Buescher signs a multi-year contract to remain at JTG Daugherty and drive the No. 37 car. (announcement made Aug. 18)

Matt DiBenedetto remains with Go Fas Racing in the team’s No. 32 car (announcement made Aug. 12)

William Byron will drive the No. 24 at Hendrick Motorsports, replacing Kasey Kahne (announcement made Aug. 9)

Paul Menard moves to Wood Brothers Racing to drive the No. 21 car (announcement made July 26)

Ryan Blaney moves to Team Penske to drive the No. 12 car and signs a multi-year contract extension (announcement made July 26)

Brad Keselowski agrees to contract extension to drive the No. 2 car for Team Penske (announcement made July 25

Alex Bowman will drive the No. 88 at Hendrick Motorsports, replacing Dale Earnhardt Jr. (announcement made July 20)

Erik Jones will drive the No. 20 at Joe Gibbs Racing, replacing Matt Kenseth (announcement made July 11)

OPEN/POSSIBLY OPEN RIDES

— Nos. 23 & 83: BK Racing has not announced plans for its cars for 2018.

— No. 27: Richard Childress Racing has not announced plans for this car for 2018.

— No. 34: Front Row Motorsports informed Landon Cassill on Oct. 9 that he would not be returning to the team next season. The team has not announced its driver lineup for next season. 

— No. 41: Stewart-Haas Racing declined to pick up the option on Kurt Busch’s contract for next year on Aug. 1. Even so, the team tweeted that it expected Busch back with sponsor Monster Energy for next year. Busch said Nov. 29, a day before the Cup Awards in Las Vegas, that he is not too worried about his situation and expects to be with the team. “I think that my best chance to win races and to win championships is to be with Stewart-Haas Racing,’’ he said.

— No. 77: Furniture Row Racing sold the charter to this team. This car will not compete in 2018.

AVAILABLE DRIVERS

Matt Kenseth: Out of the No. 20 after this season. He does not have plans for 2018.

Kurt Busch: With Stewart-Haas Racing declining to pick up his option for next year, Busch is a free agent. Even with Stewart-Haas Racing’s action, there’s still a good chance Busch signs a deal to remain with the organization.

Danica Patrick: She will not return to Stewart-Haas Racing after this season. Patrick announced Nov. 17 at Homestead that she plans to drive only the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500 next year before retiring. She has not completed a deal to run either race so far. 

Michael McDowellWill not return to Leavine Family Racing with Kasey Kahne joining the team next season. Has not announced 2018 plans.

Landon CassillSearching for a ride after being informed he will not be back at Front Row Motorsports. He said Oct. 10 that he did not have sponsorship to bring with him at the time.

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Joe Gibbs Racing 2018 Xfinity lineup: Christopher Bell, Brandon Jones, Ryan Preece

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Joe Gibbs Racing announced Wednesday it will campaign three full-time Xfinity cars in 2018:

Bell will drive the No. 20 Toyota Camry. His crew chief will be Jason Ratcliff, whose final stint with Matt Kenseth in the Cup Series is Sunday in Miami.

Bell has made seven Xfinity starts this season, scoring his first series win Oct. 21 at Kansas.

Bell is still in contention for the Truck championship, which will be decided in Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

  • After two-plus full-time Xfinity seasons with Richard Childress Racing, Brandon Jones moves to a similar full-time ride with JGR.

Brandon Jones will drive the No. 19 Toyota Camry. Chris Gabehart will be his crew chief.

Eric Phillips will serve as crew chief for Preece and the other drivers when they are behind the wheel of the No. 18.

Preece has made three Xfinity starts this season, with top-five finishes in each, including his first career win July 29 at Iowa Speedway. He will race in Saturday’s season-ending event.

Preece will drive an undetermined number of races in 2018. Busch, the all-time Xfinity wins leader with 91, will start a maximum of seven races. Fellow Cup drivers Hamlin, Erik Jones and Suarez will fill out the remaining races.

Six Cup teams docked practice time at Phoenix

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AVONDALE, Arizona – Six Cup cars, three Xfinity cars and two trucks will miss practice time this weekend at Phoenix Raceway for inspection issues, NASCAR announced Friday.

The Cup cars of Trevor Bayne, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chris Buescher and Cole Whitt will miss 15 minutes of Friday’s Cup practice because those cars each were late to inspection at Texas. That session goes from 1 – 2:25 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

The cars of Buescher, Joey Logano and playoff contender Chase Elliott will miss 15 minutes of Saturday’s final practice for failing inspection before last weekend’s race at Texas.

In the Xfinity Series, the car of playoff contender Matt Tifft will miss 30 minutes of final practice for failing inspection three times before last weekend’s race at Texas. The cars of Ryan Blaney and playoff contender Daniel Hemric will each miss 15 minutes of final practice for failing inspection twice before last weekend’s race. That session is from 4:30 – 5:25 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

In the Camping World Truck Series, the vehicles of Ray Ciccarelli and Ted Minor will each miss 15 minutes of final practice for failing inspection twice before last weekend’s race at Texas. That session is from 11 a.m. – 12:50 p.m. on Fox Sports 2.

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