Austin Dillon wins pole for today’s Xfinity Series season opener at Daytona

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Former NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Austin Dillon has won the pole for the series’ season opener this afternoon at Daytona International Speedway.

Dillon, who is starting his second full-time season in the Sprint Cup Series but will also run the majority of this year’s Xfinity races, captured his 11th career pole in NASCAR’s junior league.

“Luckily, I was 12th [to start] that last group and was kind of staying back, watching how things played out,” Dillon told Fox Sports1. “I didn’t want to be the last car because I knew if there was too much of a gap, we wouldn’t make it around [to start a timed lap]. But it worked out. … Hopefully, we’ll have some fun in this Xfinity race.”

A big surprise next to Dillon on the front row is Justin Marks, who took the No. 29 RAB Racing Toyota to second on the grid – the best starting position that he’s ever had in Xfinity competition. Marks will try to improve upon his best career Xfinity finish, a sixth last season on the road course at Mid-Ohio.

Chad Boat and Brendan Gaughan will make up the second row for the Alert Today Florida 300, followed by Aric Almirola and Eric Jones in Row 3. Dakoda Armstrong and Ryan Reed are in Row 4, and Row 5 features J.J. Yeley and Chris Buescher.

Defending race winner Regan Smith rolls off 12th alongside Elliott Sadler in Row 6, while Smith’s JR Motorsports teammate and reigning Xfinity Series champion, Chase Elliott, failed to get out of the first round and will start back in 35th.

The first round was slowed by a six-car crash in the second of four groups and then a subsequent brief rain shower. The crash was triggered by contact between Blake Koch and Daniel Suarez, and ended up collecting Landon Cassill, Carlos Contreras, Tanner Berryhill, and Harrison Rhodes as well.

As a result, Rhodes, Contreras, and Berryhill were among the seven drivers that failed to make today’s 120-lap race. Also going home are Scott Lagasse Jr., former Daytona 500 winner Derrike Cope, Bobby Gerhart, and Joe Nemechek.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was part of Group 2 in the first round and avoided the crash when it took place. But he had a slower time as a result and will start last on the grid – 40th – using the champion’s provisional (he won the Xfinity Series titles in 1998 and 1999).

Earnhardt took it in stride, joking about it with a pair of tweets:

NASCAR Xfinity Series
Alert Today Florida 300
Starting Lineup

Row 1: Austin Dillon, Justin Marks
Row 2: Chad Boat, Brendan Gaughan
Row 3: Aric Almirola, Erik Jones
Row 4: Dakoda Armstrong, Ryan Reed
Row 5: J.J. Yeley, Chris Buescher
Row 6: Elliott Sadler, Regan Smith
Row 7: Jeffrey Earnhardt, Brad Keselowski
Row 8: Brian Scott, Ryan Sieg
Row 9: Cale Conley, David Starr
Row 10: Mike Harmon, Chris Cockrum
Row 11: Ross Chastain, Jeff Green
Row 12: Jeremy Clements, Josh Reaume
Row 13: Eric McClure, Joey Gase
Row 14: Kyle Larson, Darrell Wallace Jr.
Row 15: John Wes Townley, Dexter Bean
Row 16: Mike Wallace, Kyle Busch
Row 17: Derek White, Ty Dillon
Row 18: Chase Elliott, Daniel Suarez
Row 19: Mario Gosselin, Blake Koch
Row 20: Landon Cassill, Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Failed to Qualify
Harrison Rhodes, Carlos Contreras, Tanner Berryhill, Scott Lagasse Jr., Derrike Cope, Bobby Gerhart, Joe Nemechek

Hailie Deegan on IMSA debut: ‘I’m not mad. I’m gaining experience’

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The first day of Hailie Deegan’s foray into sports car racing was one with mixed results.

Deegan and teammate, NASCAR Xfinity driver Chase Briscoe, finished 43rd of 51 teams that were entered in Friday’s Michelin Pilot Challenge at Daytona International Speedway.

Deegan ran as high as 15th before the car experienced mechanical issues roughly three hours into the four-hour event, and it was brought in to be worked on for the remaining time.

Deegan and Briscoe were in the No. 22 Multimatic Motorsports Inc. Ford GT4, which ran a total of 86 laps. One other NASCAR driver, Xfinity pilot Austin Cindric, was teamed with Seb Priaulx in the No. 15 Multimatic Motorsports Inc. Ford Mustang GT4, and together they finished 45th, completing 78 laps.

One other name of note was IndyCar driver Gabby Chaves, who finished 28th (completed 107 laps).

The fastest team in the field was Dylan Murry, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Jim Cox, who collectively ran the entire 110 laps.

While her team continued to work on the car in the garage, Deegan visited the infield media center to speak about her first race experience in an IMSA sports car.

I feel like I just gained a lot of experience,” Deegan said. “I’m here to gain experience after that three-day road test, coming here and practicing for two days.

“I just feel like I know a lot more about racing than I did before. And that’s why I’m here and supposed to be doing.”

The biggest challenge, Deegan said, was the large number of cars she had to compete against.

“The traffic is a little difficult to deal with; it’s not bad, though,” Deegan said. “It makes it fun. It makes it interesting. You constantly have to be on your toes.

“What I like about sports car racing is how many of the points you have to remember in your head. You get a little distracted for a second, and the next thing you know, you overdrive the corner that kind of laps into the next corner.

“So there’s constantly so much going on, you have to be on top of your game.”

While she would have liked to have more time on track had it not been for the mechanical issue, Deegan was philosophical about how the day played out.

“I’m not mad, I’m gaining experience,” she said. “That’s what I’m here to do.”

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DC Solar founders to plead guilty to charges related to $1 billion Ponzi scheme

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Thirteen months after the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service raided the headquarters of DC Solar and the home of its founders, Jeff and Paulette Carpoff, the couple has entered plea agreements related to a $1 billion Ponzi scheme, the impact of which saw Chip Ganassi Racing close its Xfinity Series program in 2019.

Jeff Carpoff has agreed to plead guilty to one count each of wire fraud and money laundering while Paulette Carpoff will plead guilty to one count each of conspiracy and money laundering.

According to the plea agreements filed with the Eastern District of California, the government will recommend an initial sentence of 30 years in prison for Jeff Carpoff and 15 years for Paulette Carpoff prior to any co-operation they provide with the case.

The agreement outlines a Ponzi scheme that operated from March 2011 to December 2018, ending with the raids on the Carpoff’s residence in Martinez, California, and DC Solar’s headquarters in Benicia, California.

DC Solar was a company that built and leased solar energy equipment and also sponsored Chip Ganassi Racing in the Cup and Xfinity Series. It was the primary or co-primary sponsor for Kyle Larson in 16 Cup races and for three races with Jamie McMurray in 2018. It also sponsored 10 Xfinity races with Ganassi and announced in November 2018 it would sponsor Ross Chastain’s full-time ride in 2019.

It also sponsored Xfinity Series races in 2018 at Phoenix Raceway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway and the infield “FanGrounds” at Richmond Raceway.

In the wake of the raids and the company filing for bankruptcy in January 2019, CGR was forced to close its Xfinity operation.

During the nearly eight-year scheme, the plea agreement says the Carpoffs used the money generated from it to buy their NASCAR sponsorships, 150 luxury and collectible vehicles and luxury real estate in Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas, the Caribbean and Mexico.

They also purchased a suite at a professional football stadium, a subscription private jet service, the Martinez (California) Clippers minor league baseball team and a 2018 performance by an internationally known rapper at a company holiday party.

Funds were also used to make illicit payments to their co-conspirators and others.

As part of their respective plea agreements, the Carpoffs have agreed to pay restitution to their victims, totaling between $800 million and $1.6 billion.

Jim France bullish on the future: ‘We’re getting some momentum back’

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In a rare interview Friday, NASCAR CEO and chairman Jim France said he’s bullish about the momentum of his racing series, particularly since last year’s ISC merger.

“Very much so,” France said when asked if he’s looking forward to the return of stock cars to Daytona International Speedway next month for Speedweeks. The Daytona 500 will kick off the Cup Series season Feb. 16.

“We’re coming off of a very good year I felt like last year where we’re really getting some momentum back,” France said. “It’s exciting now going into this coming year.”

Much of the focus has been on the discussions around a possible revamping of the 2021 schedule.

“(NASCAR President) Steve Phelps is working diligently on that,” France said with a laugh. “There’ll be announcements coming in the not-too-distant future.”

France said last year’s merger of NASCAR and International Speedway Corp., which had been publicly traded before the deal, provides more flexibility on the schedule.

“It makes a big difference,” he said. “It gives us an opportunity to respond quicker to the changing environment out here with the economy and all the things that are going on that impact motorsports. It was a major big step that we needed to make probably for quite a while.”

France spoke with a small group of reporters after a major news conference at Daytona involving the IMSA Series that will create a bridge for the premier sports car classes at Daytona and Le Mans.

“The way I view it is if you ever catch the Ferrari vs. Ford movie where the cars went back and forth with Le Mans, that’s the era that we’re getting ready to enter into here is my optimistic hope,” said France, who is also the chairman of IMSA.

Kaz Grala returning to Richard Childress Racing for select Xfinity races

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Kaz Grala will return to compete for Richard Childress Racing in the Xfinity Series this year in select races, the team announced Friday.

Grala, 21, will be one of three drivers to pilot the No. 21 Chevrolet during the full season, joining Myatt Snider and Anthony Alfredo.

Grala made five starts in the No. 21 in 2019, earning a best result of fifth at Road America.

“I learned a lot as a driver working with RCR last year, so I feel confident that our existing chemistry as a team will lead to even better results in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this season,” Grala said in a press release. “RCR’s Xfinity Series program is top-notch, and with the No. 21 car running all year, I am excited to be a part of the team chasing yet another owner’s championship. I’m very grateful to Richard Childress for giving me this opportunity to further my career.”

No sponsors were part of the announcement.

“Kaz showed quite a bit of speed and promise in the No. 21 car last year for RCR,” Richard Childress said in a press release. “I’m confident the results will show in 2020, especially after a year under his belt in our proven Xfinity program.”