Long: Familiar scene has new meaning for Kurt Busch after Richmond victory

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RICHMOND, Va. – Confetti flew. Champaign sprayed. Crew members hugged.

The scene rarely deviates during the NASCAR Sprint Cup season. For all the repetitive pictures and interviews, Sunday’s spectacle in Victory Lane at Richmond International Raceway was different. Not for what it was, but what it meant to Kurt Busch.

Shadowed by tabloid headlines and a protective order granted to his ex-girlfriend by a Delaware Family Court Commissioner, Busch missed the first three races after NASCAR suspended him.

But that’s taking a look only at part of the picture.

The former champion won multiple races all but twice from 2002-11 before his career crashed with a series of public outbursts catalogued on YouTube that cost him his ride with car owner Roger Penske. Busch spent most of the 2012 season driving for a team that had limited funds and little chance of winning most races. He became more recognized for his ode to Ricky Bobby and “Talladega Nights’’ than any success on the track.

When car owner Gene Haas abruptly decided to expand to four cars, he plucked Busch from Furniture Row Racing for the 2014 season, accepting the driver’s “Outlaw” image. Haas knew about second chances, having served about 16 months in prison for tax fraud before he was released in May 2009.

In their sixth race together, Busch won. In his sixth race of this season, he won again.

“Redemption story,’’ said Keith Rodden, crew chief for Kasey Kahne, who flashed a thumbs up sign to Busch on pit road as the latter drove toward Victory Lane. Rival team owner Rick Hendrick and Jimmie Johnson each congratulated Busch after his win.

All that Busch had gone through in his career, all that he has gone through since his ex-girlfriend accused him of domestic abuse – a Delaware Family Court Commissioner concluded that it was “more likely than not” Busch committed the act, but the Delaware Department of Justice declined to press charges –  made Sunday’s win and trip to Victory Lane different.

“I can appreciate it more,’’ Busch said after his 26th career Cup victory, which tied him with NASCAR Hall of Famer Fred Lorenzen in all-time series wins.

“As I’m older, I can appreciate it more because of the time and effort that it takes to assemble a good group of guys,” Busch said. “That’s where I recognize what now I might have took for granted when I was racing with Jimmy Fennig in the Roush days, and when we won the championship (in 2004).’’

As for the courtroom drama and suspension, Busch said it wasn’t difficult to separate that from racing because he was “standing on the truth the whole time.’’

What happened off track had an impact. Upon his return to racing last month at Phoenix International Raceway, Busch concedes he drove with “too much of a chip on my shoulder.’’

Even so, his car was fast and he often was in contention. When he was close, though, something happened to snatch victory away. He was headed for the win at Auto Club Speedway last month when a debris caution extended the race. Brad Keselowski passed Busch on the final lap to win. Busch finished third.

With crew chief Tony Gibson sidelined by kidney stone, Busch charged to the lead at Bristol Motor Speedway last week before giving up the spot when he pitted and those behind him didn’t with 34 laps to go. Shuffled back, he couldn’t avoid an accident, and he placed 15th.

While he led 127 of the last 128 laps Sunday, nothing out of the ordinary happened at Richmond to send Busch home wondering what he could do to win.

“After the race last week, I felt like, you know, just settle down, get into the groove where you let the race come to you and let the talent of the crew members come into play, and that way we all carry the same weight,’’ Busch said. “I think I was just trying to carry too much weight.’’

That’s another reason why this win is different from the Martinsville victory a year ago. Then, he had a new team and was with Daniel Knost, who was in his first year as a crew chief.

“I felt the responsibility of being a mentor,’’ said Busch, who was visited by Knost in Victory Lane. “This year I feel the responsibility of being the driver and doing my duty because I know I’ve got the best guy on the box with Tony Gibson, the best lead engineer with Johnny Klausmeier, the best car chief, best front‑end guy, rear‑end guy, tire guy.

“Everybody on our team is at a top level so I don’t have to do anything other than drive, and that’s what Gene Haas wants me to do and he’s not happy with one win. He wants multiple wins.’’

For all that he’s gone though, Sunday’s race also gave Busch something else.

“The chip on my shoulder,’’ he said, “will now be a trophy that I get to carry out of here.’’

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.

 

Where are they now? Buddy Parrott enjoying down time

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Buddy Parrott played outsized roles in two of the most dramatic races in NASCAR history.

Now 83 years old and retired from the sport since 2001, Parrott looks back on those two days as highlights of a career that began in the early 1970s.

In the 1990 Daytona 500, champion driver Dale Earnhardt seemed on course to end his frustration in NASCAR’s biggest event. He held the lead roaring down the backstretch on the last lap. Suddenly, Earnhardt slowed with a blown tire.

The lead was inherited by Derrike Cope, who charged to the checkered flag to score one of racing’s biggest upsets.

Parrott was Cope’s crew chief.

MORE: NASCAR Power Rankings: Memorable quotes through the years

In 1984, Richard Petty edged Cale Yarborough to win the summer race at Daytona International Speedway. It was Petty’s 200th – and final – win.

Parrott was Petty’s crew chief.

Those victories were high marks in a long pit-road career that saw Parrott’s drivers win dozens of races. He worked with, among others, Darrell Waltrip, Rusty Wallace, Jeff Burton and Petty and for team owners Jack Roush and Roger Penske.

Parrott remains active at 83, although he admits to having moved to a slower gear.

“I haven’t been living on the edge,” Parrott told NBC Sports. “I’ve been taking it really easy. I told my sons when you get to be 80 you can do anything you want because basically you’ve already done it.”

MORE: NASCAR, ARCA 2023 schedules

His strongest current connection to NASCAR is as a voter in the annual Hall of Fame balloting.

After more than 20 years roaming pit roads as a crew chief, Parrott moved into a general manager role at Roush Racing in 1997. He retired four years later and didn’t look back.

“I finally told Jack one day, ‘I don’t have time to ride my motorcycle,’ ” Parrott said. “He looked at me and said, ‘What do you want to do about it?’ I said, ‘I’m ready to retire.’ He told me I could work whatever schedule I wanted, but I decided that was it. I didn’t have a going-away thing or whatever.”

Parrott spent much of the next 15 years traveling with his wife, Judy, who died in 2016, and playing with his grandchildren.

“I had a great time in retirement because Judy was ready and I was ready,” he said. “We had a lot of fun. We’d go to Florida for two and three months at a time. I’m so happy that I didn’t hang on and go to the shop every day and try to find something to do. I spent that time with Judy, and we had 16 years of good retirement.”

Parrott, a native of Gastonia, N.C., lives in Statesville, N.C. His sons, Todd and Brad, also were NASCAR crew chiefs.

MORE: Jody Ridley’s Dover win an upset for the ages

Parrott is perhaps best remembered as crew chief for Rusty Wallace, Team Penske and the No. 2 black cars sponsored by Miller Lite. From 1992-94, they won 19 races and were consistently competitive at the front.

“I still get a lot of cards sent to me to sign from those years,” Parrott said. “I can say that was some of the happiest times I had. Those years with Rusty – and then with Jack Roush – really stand out. And who in the hell could not have fun having a beer sponsor?”

 

 

NASCAR Awards to air at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Joey Logano didn’t need much time to answer the question.

Who would the two-time Cup champion want to introduce him at the NASCAR Awards?

Racing icon Mario Andretti, Logano immediately said. 

And there was Andretti on the stage at the Music City Center introducing Logano, the 2022 Cup champion. Watch that and the rest of the night’s festivities at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock. You can order Peacock here.

MORE: See the red carpet scene

MORE: Sport shows support for Gibbs family at NASCAR Awards

NBC Sports’ Marty Snider and Kim Coon co-hosted the show along with Fox Sports’ Kaitlyn Vincie. The Cup, Xfinity and Truck champions were honored. Xfinity champion Ty Gibbs, whose father died hours after Gibbs won the Xfinity title last month, received a standing ovation and thanked the industry for its support.

The highlight of the night for Logano was having Andretti on stage to introduce him.

“He’s just been a great role model for me, not only as a racer, but as a person for so long,” Logano said afterward. “I had his picture on my wall. I looked at Mario Andretti before I went to sleep every night as a kid. I thought it was the coolest thing that he signed it to me.”

NASCAR Awards and Champion Celebration
Cup champion Joey Logano on stage with racing icon Mario Andretti during the NASCAR Awards in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Logano and Andretti have gotten to know each other through the years. Logano ran a throwback car that honored Andretti at Darlington Raceway in 2015 and 2021.

But none of that compared to being on stage with Andretti.

“That’s still like a pinch-me moment,” Logano said. “It’s Mario Andretti. He’s the man. The fact that he knows my name I think is really, really cool.”

Catch the NASCAR Awards at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock

Sport shows support for Gibbs family at NASCAR Awards

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The NASCAR community showed its support Thursday at the NASCAR Awards for the Gibbs family, grieving the death of Coy Gibbs on Nov. 6. 

During his interview on stage, car owner Joe Gibbs thanked the NASCAR industry for its support. (The NASCAR Awards show airs at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock).

Coy Gibbs, son of Joe Gibbs and father of Xfinity champion Ty Gibbs, died hours after seeing Ty Gibbs win the series title last month at Phoenix Raceway. Coy Gibbs, 49, was the vice chairman and chief operating officer at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR chief operating officer, introduced Ty Gibbs at the NASCAR Awards and noted that “everyone gathered tonight is all a part of the NASCAR family, and I know I speak for everyone that the entire NASCAR family is 100% percent behind this young man.”

Ty Gibbs received a standing ovation.

“Thank you,” he told the crowd, “that means a lot.”

Ty Gibbs spoke for less than a minute, thanking his team, sponsors, fans and the NASCAR community.

He closed his speech by saying “And thanks to my family. I love you. I hope everybody has a great offseason. Enjoy it. Thank you for all the support. Thank you for all the claps. I really appreciate it.”

Ty Gibbs spoke to the media earlier Thursday. Asked how he was doing, he said: “I’ve been doing good. Thank you for asking and definitely appreciate you guys. We’ve been doing good, doing a lot of stuff this week. … It’s been fun to experience this stuff.”

Asked about Joe Gibbs addressing the organization after Coy’s death, Ty Gibbs politely said: “For right now, I’m not going to touch on any of that subject at all. I’m just going to stick with all the racing questions and go from there.”

Cup champion Joey Logano said he spent time with 20-year-old Ty Gibbs on Wednesday at the champion’s dinner.

Logano said he told Ty Gibbs that “we’re here for you. You need something reach out.”