Multi-time champion also served as matchmaker for Brad Keselowski

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All-time series winner, record holder in series championships and most successful series driver are just some of the titles attached to Frank Kimmel.

Add matchmaker as well.

Brad Keselowski credits Kimmel, the 10-time ARCA champion and longtime family friend, with introducing him to girlfriend Paige White.

“Frank has done a lot of tremendous things,’’ Keselowski said this week in a conference call with reporters. “I can remember him from as far back to the first time I met him when I was 8 years old, and we used to call him the big kid because he was a big guy, right, and he would walk around with squirt guns and squirt us as kids. We’d play with him back and forth and we had a grand old time.’’

But it goes beyond that.

In interviews for an NBC SportsWorld story on Keselowski in July, White and Kimmel discussed the role Kimmel played in the early courtship of Keselowski and White.

White said she met Kimmel and his family in 2013. White was standing with Kimmel at Kentucky Speedway when Keselowski approached.

Keselowski later sent a message to Kimmel’s son that he wanted Kimmel to call him. Kimmel did.

“Brad just said, ‘I have a funny question for you,’ ” Kimmel recalled Keselowski telling him.

Keselowski asked Kimmel about White.

“I told him that’s a great little girl,’” Kimmel said.

White and Keselowski met at Martinsville that fall but White admitted “it was super awkward. You could tell he was trying so hard. You know how it is when you meet someone for the first time that you think you might like.’’

He asked her to dinner but she turned him down. White, the daughter of racer, was going to watch her father compete that night.

Their paths crossed again at Texas Motor Speedway. Keselowski won the Xfinity race there and gave White his cowboy hat that the winner received. He asked her to hang out with him that weekend but she turned him down because she was with family.

A couple of weeks later at Homestead-Miami Speedway, she agreed to go to dinner with Keselowski – along with Kimmel and his wife, Donna. White went there that weekend with the Kimmels because he was competing in the Camping World Truck race.

All three were to go to dinner with Keselowski after the Xfinity race. He won. His victory lane duties delayed their dinner plans. Eventually, they went out to dinner.

The next night, they went to dinner again and White had the Kimmels join them again.

“It made it easier that people were with us,’’ White told NBC Sports in May.

The following week she and Keselowski had dinner together in the Charlotte, N.C., area.

Asked in May how White has changed him, Keselowski said: “I feel like I have someone closer to me to talk to which is good.”

He noted last fall’s Sprint Cup race at Texas where he and Jeff Gordon made contact late in the race when Keselowski made a move for the lead. Gordon confronted Keselowski on pit road after the race. After Kevin Harvick pushed Keselowski back toward Gordon, a melee ensued, leading NASCAR to suspend four members of Hendrick Motorsports and penalize two of the organization’s crew chiefs.

Keselowski said White proved comforting after that.

“When everything happened at Texas, I felt pretty confident that I handled it right,’’ Keselowski said. “When it was all said and done, you always question it, you’re going to question yourself, that’s just normal. When I looked at her on the plane home and asked her if she was proud of the way I handled it and she said yes, I felt like mentally I was able to move on immediately.”

White delivered the couple’s first child, Scarlett, in May. Keselowski revealed in a blog last week that Scarlett faced a potentially life-threatening medical issue in June. Keselowski wrote that his daughter has recovered and doing well.

 

 

Martin Truex Jr. on Cole Pearn’s departure, what he seeks in next crew chief

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Martin Truex Jr. got a phone call from Cole Pearn on Sunday. Quickly, Truex had a very bad feeling about it.

“When he started talking it was in the back of my mind that, ‘This is not good. I feel like something big is about to come,'” Truex recalled. “Sure enough, it was surprising.”

Pearn had called to tell Truex what everyone else would learn the next day: after five years together, he was resigning as his crew chief and leaving NASCAR.

Truex discussed the end of Pearn’s tenure and what he wants from his next crew chief during a break from giving out Christmas toys to patients at Levine Children’s Hospital.

“Thought I could get a couple more years out of him, to be honest,” Truex said before admitting he completely understood Pearn’s reasons for getting out of NASCAR seemingly at the top of his game: a long season that keeps him from seeing his family.

“I understand the grind, I understand just how hard he has to work to produce a level of competition that he does,” Truex said. “I’ve seen it first hand, his hours and what’s he’s willing to do. I don’t know that there’s anyone in the garage willing to put as much work into racing as he did.”

He continued: “It’s time for him to move into doing something else. His kids are growing up too fast and he doesn’t get to see them that much. It was big decision for him and I know … he feels somewhat like he let all us down. I told him, ‘Hey, you’ve got to do what’s best for your family, we all understand and all our guys will understand, we’ll go on and try to the best with someone else filling his role.'”

When it comes to figuring who will take over as crew chief on the No. 19 Toyota, Truex said, “We’ve got a few guys in mind. I feel like we’re narrowing it down. We should know something in the next couple of days for sure.”

Whoever takes over will follow in the wake of a crew chief who worked with Truex to produce 24 wins in five seasons, four appearances in the Championship 4 and the 2017 Cup title.

How did half a decade of success with Pearn change what Truex wants from a crew chief?

“Honestly, that’s a good question,” Truex said. “Obviously, I need to find somebody that has his demeanor, a guy that approaches racing the way he does, because it’s kind of what works for me. I feel like we approach racing the same way, Cole and I did. Our attitudes and just the way we thought about things was so similar. We could almost finish each other’s sentences.

“It’s so weird, we’re so different people outside of racing. In racing, that’s just the way we grew up. Our dads racing and racing go-karts and moving up through the ranks ourselves. We just did things a lot the same and we had similar beliefs in the way we did things. Just kind of the same thought process.”

Truex believes he and Pearn “approached a lot of things together more so than me being a rookie and him being a veteran like it was when I first started.

“No question, he was really good at getting the most out of me and I’ll need somebody to do that,” Truex said. “I’m not the most outspoken guy and so I need sometimes somebody to pull that information out of me, especially when it comes to the cars and building the cars. When they’re not good enough, how do you make them better? He was really good at that. I feel good about the guys we’re talking to and we’ve got a few options there and hopefully it’ll work out.”

Kyle Busch Motorsports announces 2020 driver, crew chief lineup

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Kyle Busch Motorsports announced its driver-crew chief roster for the 2020 Gander Outdoors Truck Series season on Wednesday. It includes the addition of veteran Danny Stockman.

Stockman will be in charge of the No. 51 Toyota, which will be driven by Kyle Busch, Chandler Smith and more drivers to be announced at a later date.

Stockman was a long-time crew chief at Richard Childress Racing, most recently working with Austin Dillon in the Cup Series this season. He was Dillon’s crew chief when he won his titles in the Truck Series (2011) and Xfinity Series (2013).

Ryan “Rudy” Fugle will be paired with Christian Eckes on the No. 18 Toyota. Fugle worked on the No. 51 this year as it won six races, including all of Busch’s five wins and Greg Biffle‘s victory. Fugle has led KBM teams to five owner titles (2013, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019) and two driver titles (2015 and 2017).

Mike Hillman Jr. will be the crew chief for Raphael Lessard‘s rookie season in the No. 4 Toyota. Hillman has two Truck Series titles, including Toyota’s first in 2006 with Todd Bodine.

 

DGR-Crosley switches from Toyota to Ford beginning in 2020

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Ford Performance is strengthening its driver development program by joining forces with DGR-Crosley, which announced its move from Toyota to Ford Wednesday.

The multi-year agreement will see team co-owner David Gilliland, a former Cup Series driver, lead the team’s driver development program as it field entries in late models, the ARCA Menards Series and NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series.

“We’re very excited to have DGR-Crosley come to Ford as part of our long-term efforts to develop drivers for NASCAR,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance Motorsports in a press release. “We have just scratched the surface of what is possible in developing the next generation of Ford drivers with people like Chase Briscoe, and we believe a coordinated effort with a team like DGR-Crosley will help move that process forward successfully.

“David Gilliland was a trusted and valued Ford driver in NASCAR for many years, and we look forward to renewing that relationship with him in this new effort.”

Said Gilliland: “I’m super excited about the partnership with Ford and how things are lining up for 2020. I spent a lot of time racing Fords throughout my career, and it’s really special to now be able to bring them into our race shop. A lot of time and consideration was spent on this decision, and internally we know that this is the move that we needed to make in order to advance our program to the top level. We have a great group of hard-working, talented people at DGR-Crosley, and with Ford coming on board, our future is really bright. We’re excited for all the things ahead.”

DGR-Crosley will announce its driver lineup at a later date.

The team first entered the Truck Series in 2018. Tyler Ankrum won its first race this year at Kentucky Speedway, qualifying for the playoffs in the process.

It fielded a team record five entries in the playoff race at ISM Raceway.

Brennan Poole to compete full-time for Premium Motorsports in Cup Series

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Former Xfinity Series driver Brennan Poole will compete full-time in the Cup Series in 2020 with Premium Motorsports, Poole announced Wednesday on social media.

Poole, 28, will drive the No. 15 Chevrolet and would make his Cup debut in the Daytona 500.

He joins a rookie class that includes Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer.

“I’ve been working towards this moment since I was 5 and feel blessed to have the caliber of people surrounding me that I have in this next chapter of my racing career,” Poole said in a press release. “I look forward to the opportunity to showcase our sponsor partners, both new and existing, who are supporting me at the highest level of NASCAR competition.”

Poole takes over the car that was driven by Ross Chastain in a majority of his Cup starts in 2019.

A native of The Woodlands, Texas, Poole drove for Chip Ganassi Racing in the Xfinity Series from 2016-17. His best finish was second in the 2017 race at Kentucky Speedway.

He made 13 starts in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series in 2019, driving for On Point Motorsports. His best result was second in the May race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“I’m very happy to welcome Brennan and his group to the Premium Motorsports family,” team owner Jay Robinson said in the press release. “Brennan is a very talented and dedicated young man, I believe he has a very bright future in the NASCAR Cup Series.”