Erik Jones taking first NASCAR Sprint Cup start in stride

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With both his words and his performance, Erik Jones has been “begging for a chance” to race in the Sprint Cup Series.

Now he’s getting it. Officially anyway. After acting as an emergency substitute for Denny Hamlin at Bristol Motor Speedway three weeks ago, Jones will make his first Sprint Cup start this weekend in the SpongeBob SquarePants 400 at Kansas Speedway.

Driving the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, Jones is the third replacement driver this year for Kyle Busch, who is recovering from a broken right leg and fractured left foot suffered in the Xfinity Series season opener Feb. 21 at Daytona.

“There’s been some talk of it all along of, ‘Am I going to get a shot? Am I going to be in it?” Jones told media Friday at Talladega Superspeedway. “To have it kind of all settle out and come together that I’ll be in it at Kansas is pretty cool.”

But it has been revealed that Busch tested a Late Model car in his recovery efforts last week and Jones is only scheduled for the Kansas race so far. Now there’s another question Jones can pester JGR about: is Kansas his only shot in the Cup series this year?

Jones told the Des Moines Register “it’ll be close” whether Busch will be ready to return by the Coca-Cola 600 on May 24.

“The plan is I’ll be on standby, at least (at Charlotte),” said Jones during a Goodyear tire test at Iowa Speedway. “I’m sure he’ll be raring to come back.”

If so, it doesn’t mean Jones will have a lack of racing ahead of him.

Since the beginning of the season at Daytona, the 18-year-old JGR driver has officially competed in 12 races between the Camping World Truck Series, where he’s earning points toward the driver’s championship, and the Xfinity Series, where he’s split time in JGR’s No. 20 and No. 54, the latter substituting for Busch.

“At this point in the season, it’s hard to remember where we’re running for a Truck championship,” said Jones, who is winless but third in the points, trailing leader Matt Crafton by six. “I’m up to I think 46 races now this year on my schedule – by far the busiest year that I’ve ever run. It’s never easy to balance that many races in between, but with having such great race cars it’s actually worked out pretty well. I think as a driver, it’s helped me being in the race car every weekend.”

The CWTS has only ran three races so far in 2015 and none since Martinsville Speedway on March 28. The series returns Friday night at Kansas Speedway for the Toyota Tundra 250.

Jones has a history of performing well in his first starts in NASCAR’s national series and quickly building off them.

His first race in the CWTS, in 2013 at Martinsville, saw the Michigan native start 19th for Kyle Busch Motorsports and finish ninth. Jones finished in the top 10 in all five of his races that year, winning the last at Phoenix International Raceway.

Jones’ Xfinity debut was in July 2014 at Chicagoland Speedway, a 1.5-mile track just like Kansas, where he started fourth and finished seventh. He found victory lane eight races later at Texas.

His goal for Saturday that’s believable under the circumstances is a top-15 performance.

“It’s a big step,” Jones said. “It’s not going to be an easy step for anybody, but I really believe we can go run top-15.”

If that pans out, but Jones doesn’t make another Cup start in 2015, the significance of the race isn’t lost on the driver who first turned heads by beating Busch in the 2012 Snowball Derby at 16 and has quickly put himself onthe sport’s biggest stage.

“If you would have asked me two years ago if I would be making a Cup start when I was 18 – no, I really don’t think I would have,” Jones said. “It’s an awesome opportunity that I never would have dreamed of to get to do at such a young age and definitely going to take it in stride and see what we can do.”

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.”