NASCAR driver sidelined by medical condition says he’ll be back to race

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CHINA GROVE, N.C. – Sidelined since he was diagnosed with diabetes more than a month ago, Jamie Dick vows that he’ll be back racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

“I have to get back, even if it is one time, just to say diabetes didn’t end my driving career,’’ Dick told NBC Sports on Tuesday at Viva Motorsports’ shop. “My driving career is going to end on my terms, what’s good for me and my family and my business, not what’s good for diabetes.

“Using diabetes as an excuse can’t start when I’m 26 because I don’t want it to be an excuse when I’m 36, 46 or 76.’’

Dick says he doesn’t have a timetable for his return because doctors are determining what type of diabetes he has and prescribing the proper amount of medicine. Once done, Dick said he’ll be back in the No. 55 Viva Motorsports car for the first time since racing March 14 at Phoenix International Raceway.

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Dick visited his mother in New Mexico the week of the Phoenix race. As they talked, he mentioned how thirsty he had been lately. She said the next time he saw a doctor he should ask about it because that is a sign of diabetes.

Nothing more was thought of the conversation at that time.

Dick said it was a normal weekend at Phoenix. He was 25th in the first practice, 26th in the final session and qualified 28th for his second start of the season. He shared his ride early in the season with Jeffrey Earnhardt, who had sponsorship that helped the team Dick owns.

Dick said he felt fine in Phoenix until he started to tire early in the 200-lap race.

“It gradually just got worse and worse,’’ Dick told NBC Sports. “When you’re worried about being tired, you lose focus mentally and you start being mentally weak. I was just hoping the race would end as soon as it could.’’

Dick compared what he felt to what a tired motorist might feel.

“You’re driving late at night and sometimes you don’t remember the last exit you passed, you have lapses in your memory,’’ he said. “You weren’t asleep or anything but you’re not thinking about what you’re doing. It was similar to that. When you’re driving a race car, especially at the end of the race, you have to actively think about how you can change your driving to get the most out of your car. That changes sometimes every lap. I wasn’t doing that at all and going slower and slower and slower.’’

So why not get out of the car if he wasn’t feeling well?

“Because I’m a competitive person and we’re racing for points and money and all that stuff,’’ said Dick, who has 57 career Xfinity starts since 2011. “I still knew what I was doing as far as driving a race car. I wasn’t going to drive it into the wall. I didn’t feel like I was in any danger of blacking out. I wasn’t driving it competitively, but I also wasn’t in anyone’s way or going to wreck anyone or wreck myself.’’

When the race finished – Dick placed 28th, four laps behind the leaders – he recalled radioing his team for water and a cold rag. Dick climbed from the car unassisted but said he became dizzy and weak when he tried to stand on his own. Team members took him to the infield care center.

Dick’s temperature, heart rate and carbon monoxide levels were all within the acceptable range for a driver who had just competed. Further checks led to the discovery that his blood sugar was high. Diabetes was mentioned as a possible cause.

Dick’s thoughts turned to his conversation with his mother about being thirsty.

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Dick went to a local hospital for further examination. He was taken to the emergency room and treated for dehydration. After checking his blood sugar, he was diagnosed with diabetes and admitted so he could be treated.

He admits his first thought was what would happen to his racing career.

“It’s a very good thing that Ryan Reed is around,’’ Dick said of the Roush Fenway Racing driver who has diabetes and won this year’s Xfinity opener at Daytona International Speedway.

“I would have had a question for a very long time can I race with diabetes, maybe for weeks, but luckily, because Ryan Reed is doing it, it is possible to race with diabetes. Then (the question) quickly became what are the steps to get back, not am I going to be able to get back.’’

Dick says he has to watch what he eats, which means less carbs and sugars. He must check his blood sugar before each meal and before he goes to bed. He gives himself shots in the stomach.

“They’re pretty small needles,’’ Dick said. “What actually hurts worse is pricking your finger to test your blood.’’

While he’s missed three starts since being diagnosed with diabetes – he was to have raced at Auto Club Speedway, Texas and Bristol – he admits the time out of the car has allowed him to focus more on building his race team. Earnhardt gave the team a season-best 15th-place finish at Bristol last weekend, and Brandon Gdovic, who placed 26th in his series debut earlier this month at Texas, will be in the car this weekend at Richmond International Raceway.

“In some ways, my diagnosis was a blessing for the racing team because it gave other people an opportunity and it allowed our race team to expand and flex its muscles and show what it can do with Jeffrey in the car and Brandon in the car,’’ Dick said.

Still, Dick wants to be back in the car. When he does, it will be as if nothing has changed.

“As soon as I’m able to get back into  a race car, which is hopefully very soon,’’ he said, “other than paying a little bit of attention to what I eat, I’m still living the same life and I’m still the same person as I was two months ago.’’

 

Sammy Smith to run full Xfinity season for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2023

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Sammy Smith will run the full Xfinity schedule in the No. 18 car, Joe Gibbs Racing announced Monday.

The 18-year-old Smith, a Toyota development driver, won the ARCA Menards Series East title for a second consecutive year in 2022 and also made nine Xfinity starts with JGR.

Pilot Flying J, TMC Transportation and Allstate Peterbilt will be sponsors on Smith’s car throughout the 2023 season. Jeff Meendering will be Smith’s crew chief.

“This is an opportunity I have been working towards,” Smith said in a statement from the team. “I can’t wait to get behind the wheel full-time and am looking forward to a great season. I learned a lot in 2022 that will really help me to be competitive and run up front in the Xfinity Series. Thank you to Pilot Flying J, TMC Transportation, Allstate Peterbilt Group, and Toyota Racing Development for supporting me in my racing career. I am excited for next year and appreciate the opportunity.”

Said Steve DeSouza, JGR executive vice president of Xfinity Series and driver development, in a statement: “Sammy is a fantastic addition to our 2023 Xfinity lineup. He proved to have the passion and the talent to necessary to compete for wins in the races he ran for us in 2022,” .“We are excited to get him in the No. 18 full time and know he will be competitive from the jump.”

NASCAR Power Rankings: Racing through the numbers

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Some drivers carry one car number throughout their racing careers. The most famous racers in NASCAR’s 75-year history typically are associated with one number, although some have raced under several.

Victories, championships and driver personalities give life to something as generally mundane as a number. And the most popular produce even bigger numbers, as in sales of T-shirts, caps and other souvenirs.

Here’s a look at 10 of the most iconic NASCAR numbers:

NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

1. 43 — Since Richard Petty’s emergence as a superstar in the 1960s, the number 43 has been NASCAR’s most iconic. Although Lee Petty, Richard’s father, usually drove No. 42, he actually scored the first win by the 43, in 1959. The Petty blue No. 43 carried Richard to a string of championships. He scored 192 of his 200 race wins with the number. It rolls on today with Erik Jones, who took the 43 to the Southern 500 victory lane this season.

2. 3 — The fiercely facing forward No. 3 became ultra-famous while driven by seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt (although Earnhardt won his first title driving the No. 2). Earnhardt’s black Chevrolet carried the number to new heights, but Fireball Roberts, David Pearson, Junior Johnson, Buck Baker, Buddy Baker and Ricky Rudd, among others, also won in the car.

MORE: Where are they now? Buddy Parrott

3. 21 — The list of drivers who have raced Wood Brothers Racing’s famous No. 21, with the familiar gold foil numbers, reads like a history of NASCAR. David Pearson brought the most fame to the number, but Tim Flock, Curtis Turner, team owner Glen Wood, Cale Yarborough, A.J. Foyt, Donnie Allison, Neil Bonnett and Dale Jarrett also have driven the 21.

4. 11 — This number is responsible for more race wins — 228 — than any other. It also has scored eight championships — three each by Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough and two by Ned Jarrett. Other stars in the 11 over the years: Junior Johnson, Bobby Allison, A.J. Foyt, Terry Labonte, Geoffrey Bodine, Bill Elliott and Denny Hamlin. And some guy named Mario Andretti.

5. 48 — This number was largely ignored until the arrival of Jimmie Johnson, who carried it to seven championships, including five in a row.

6. 24 — The number 24 was a lonely number until 1994 when a kid named Jeff Gordon drove it to its first win, in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The brightly colored 24 became a regular visitor to victory lane from that point forward, carrying Gordon to four championships and becoming one of NASCAR’s most decorated numbers.

MORE: Will Kyle Busch follow footsteps of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning?

7. 18 — Although Dale Jarrett and Bobby Labonte won in the 18, Kyle Busch, draped in the bright colors of sponsor M&Ms, took it into new territory.

8. 22 — NASCAR’s first Cup champion (Red Byron) and its most recent (Joey Logano) rode with the 22. The number has produced 87 wins over the years, including victories by Fireball Roberts, Bobby Allison, Ward Burton, Kurt Busch, Byron and Logano.

9. 2 — Although the 2 carried Dale Earnhardt (1980) and Brad Keselowski (2012) to Cup championships, it is perhaps most identified with Rusty Wallace, whose menacing black No. 2 was powerful at Team Penske. Also successful in the 2: Bill Blair, Kurt Busch and Austin Cindric, this year’s Daytona 500 winner.

10. 9 — The 9 was basically nondescript until Bill Elliott roared out of the north Georgia mountains to turn it into a big winner in the mid-1980s. His son, Chase, continues the trend.

 

 

Truck Series: Rajah Caruth joins GMS Racing

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Rajah Caruth will drive the No. 24 truck full-time for GMS Racing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2023, the team announced Tuesday.

The 20-year-old Caruth ran a full season in the ARCA Menards Series last year, placing third in points. He also made seven Xfinity starts and four Truck starts last year. 

“I am extremely honored, and really excited to join GMS Racing and be in the fold of a professional race team with so much history,” Caruth said in a statement from the team. “I’ve been waiting for an opportunity like this throughout my whole career, and I’m going to do the best in my power to make the most of it.

“First and foremost, I can’t thank everybody at GMS enough for believing in me and believing that I have what it takes to drive one of their trucks. Same goes for everybody at Chevrolet for their support, we truly wouldn’t be able to make this happen without them. 

Caruth joins Grant Enfinger and Daniel Dye as GMS Racing’s full-time Craftsman Truck Series drivers. Chad Walter will be Caruth’s crew chief. Jeff Hensley will be Enfinger’s crew chief. Travis Sharpe will be Dye’s crew chief. 

The primary partner on Caruth’s truck will be the Wendell Scott Foundation. The foundation, named for the first Black driver to win a NASCAR Cup race, seeks to provide resources and services to underprivileged Black youth communities near Scott’s hometown of Danville, Virginia. Since the foundation’s formation in 2011, more than 25 students have been awarded more than $50,000 from the Wendell Scott Legacy Scholarship programs.

“We are excited for Rajah to compete full-time with GMS Racing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2023,” said Dayne Pierantoni, GM Racing Program Manager for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. “Through Chevrolet’s partnership with Rev Racing, we have been impressed with Rajah’s talent both on and off the track. He has proven his ability to compete at the NASCAR national level, and we look forward to seeing his continued success with a series championship winning team.”

The Truck season begins Feb. 17 at Daytona International Speedway. 

In other Truck Series news:

Dean Thompson will drive the No. 5 for TRICON Garage this coming season. The 21-year-old was a rookie in the series this past season. He had a season-best finish of 11th at Las Vegas.

“I am thrilled to start the next chapter of my career with TRICON Garage and Toyota Racing Development,” Thompson said in a statement from the team. “The team and manufacturer have quickly made a statement in the Truck Series as striving to be the best of the best. I’m ready to take on the challenge and live up to the expectations of being a driver for TRICON.”

McAnally Hilgemann Racing announced Tuesday that Christian Eckes and Jake Garcia will drive full-time in the Truck series for the team next season.

Eckes, who will drive the No. 19 truck, moves over from ThorSport Racing. Garcia will drive the No. 35 truck in pursuit of the series Rookie of the Year award.

NAPA AutoCare will continue as a team sponsor.

Garcia is 17 and is scheduled to make his first start March 3 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Because of NASCAR’s age restrictions, he will miss the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. The team’s Daytona driver has not been announced.

Sponsor adds more races in 2023 with Josh Berry

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Jarrett Companies will increase the number of races it will sponsor Josh Berry‘s No. 8 JR Motorsports ride in 2023, the Xfinity Series team announced Monday.

Jarrett Companies will sponsor Berry in six races after serving as the primary sponsor in three races in 2022. Those six races will be Phoenix (March 11), Richmond (April 1), Dover (April 29), Atlanta (July 8), Indianapolis (Aug. 12) and Texas (Sept. 23).

The deal gives Berry at least 26 races with sponsorship for next season. Bass Pro Shops will serve as the primary sponsor of Berry’s car in 11 races in 2023. Tire Pros is back with JRM and will sponsor Berry in nine races in the upcoming season.

Berry, who reached the Xfinity title race and finished fourth in the points, will have a new crew chief in 2023. Taylor Moyer will take over that role with Mike Bumgarner serving as JRM’s director of competition.

The 2023 Xfinity season begins Feb. 18 at Daytona International Speedway.