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New homes: Michael Waltrip Racing employees sprinkled throughout Sprint Cup garage

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The announcement came in August — Michael Waltrip Racing would cease operations after the 2015 season. Suddenly, about 200 employees would be out of work within three months.

They were pit crew members, drivers, crew chiefs and all those people back at the shop a driver thanks after a good day.

Some continue to look for work five months later. Some have gone into other professions. Some found jobs with other teams as the Daytona 500 nears.

Hendrick Motorsports hired 14 former MWR employees. BK Racing added 11 and that number could grow. Stewart-Haas Racing and Team Penske each hired about 10.

All told, Sprint Cup organizations reported to NASCAR Talk that they had hired more than 80 former MWR employees. Some moves are well-known. Scott Miller moved to NASCAR to become senior vice president of competition. Clint Bowyer is at HScott Motorsports, while David Ragan moved to BK Racing. Billy Scott is Danica Patrick’s crew chief, and Brian Pattie is Greg Biffle’s crew chief.

Other moves are not as well-known. Tim O’Brien went to Hendrick Motorsports to be an engineer on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s team. Neal Hood moved to Furniture Row Racing, a team looking to find additional sponsorship to start a second team, to be director of marketing and sales. Blake Haugland will be the rear tire carrier for Matt Kenseth’s team.

Here’s where former Michael Waltrip Racing employees landed in the Sprint Cup garage (not every team identified all the former MWR employees they hired. Teams are listed in alphabetical order):

NASCAR 

  • Scott Miller … executive vice  president of competition at MWR … NASCAR senior vice president of competition.

BK RACING

  • David Ragan driver of the No. 55 car … driver of the No. 23 car.
  • Joel Cox fabricator at MWR … fabricator and pit support at BK Racing.
  • Tim Kean mechanic at MWR … works on suspensions for organization. 
  • Scott King mechanic at MWR … works on suspensions with organization.
  • Kyle Turner pit crew member at MWR … serves on pit crew for BK Racing.
  • Andy Turner pit crew member at MWR … serves on pit crew for BK Racing.
  • Greg Schaefer was at MWR … oversees in assembly shop at BK Racing.
  • Eric Shirley was at MRW … works in finish fab department at BK Racing.
  • Dick Claveloux was at MWR … serves on pit crew and decal department at BK Racing.
  • Greg Carpenter was at MWR … serves as lead body hanger at BK Racing.
  • Kevin White … front suspension on the No. 55 car … mechanic and front suspension.

CHIP GANASSI RACING WITH FELIX SABATES

(Organization has added additional MWR employees)

  • Rob Kauffman … co-owner at MWR … minority owner at Chip Ganassi Racing

FURNITURE ROW RACING

  • Neal Hood … director of business development at MWR … director of marketing and sales for Furniture Row Racing.
  • Rick Wainright … senior director, partner services at MWR … director of sponsor relations for Furniture Row Racing.
  • Lee Cunningham rear tire changer for No. 15 car … rear tire changer for No. 78 car of Martin Truex Jr.
  • Chris Hall front tire carrier on No. 55 car … front tire carrier for No. 78 car.

HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS

  • Tim O’Brien … engineer with No. 55 team … engineer for No. 88 team of Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  • Travis Stock rear mechanic for No. 15 team … mechanic on No. 88 team.
  • Mike O’Malley … worked in shop at MWR … supervisor production in the 48/88 shop.
  • Zachary Yarnot fabricator at MWR … fabricator in the 48/88 shop.
  • David Funderburk … fabricator at MWR … fabricator in the 48/88 shop
  • Greg Campbell … fabricator at MWR … fabricator in the 48/88 shop
  • Nick Steger … fabricator at MWR … fabricator in the 5/24 shop
  • Evan Marchal … development pit crew member at MWR … backup pit crew member in the 5/24 shop
  • Diane Holl … director of vehicle design at MWR … manager of aerodynamics.
  • Kell Kirby … senior design engineer at MWR .. an engineer at HMS.
  • Perry Taylor … software engineer at MWR … an engineer at Hendrick.
  • Grant Fain … quality control engineer at MWR … an engineer at Hendrick.
  • Catalin Popa … structures engineer at MWR … engineer at HMS
  • Kevin Dean … aerodynamics engineer at MWR … engineer at HMS

HSCOTT MOTORSPORTS

  • Clint Bowyer driver of the No. 15 car at MWR … moves to HScott Motorsports for this year and then to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2017
  • Brett Griffin … spotter for Clint Bowyer … moves to HScott Motorsports to continue that role.
  • J.D. Frey … front mechanic for No. 15 car at MWR … setup mechanic at HScott Motorsports.
  • James Davis tire specialist for No. 15 car at MWR … same role with No. 15 team at HScott Motorsports.
  • Kristine Curley media relations for Clint Bowyer … same role with HScott Motorsports.

JTG DAUGHERTY

  • Jeff Kerr … gas man for the No. 55 team … gas man for No. 47 team of A.J. Allmendinger
  • Joey McCarthy worked in shop at MWR … works on the set-up plate with JTG Daugherty. 
  • Jeffrey Shano … hauler driver for the No. 15 team … same duties for No. 47 team.
  • Eric Gillon … electronic technician at MWR … similar role with JTG Daugherty

JOE GIBBS RACING

  • Blake Haugland … rear tire carrier on No. 55 car … rear tire carrier for the No. 20 car of Matt Kenseth.
  • Adam Hartman … backup rear tire changer at MWR … rear tire changer for No. 20 car.
  • Jaik Halpainy … shop engineer at MWR … engineer with JGR.
  • Mark Cehon … mechanic at MWR … front suspension mechanic at JGR.
  • Lee Hallman … lead trackside support engineer at MWR … race engineer at JGR.

RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING

  • Terry Spaulding … front tire changer for No. 15 car … on developmental pit crew and will work on the No. 95 of Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing.
  • Alan Steele … front tire carrier for No. 15 car … same role with RCR’s No. 2 Xfinity Series car.
  • Brian Chase jackman for No. 15 car … same role for the No. 3 car of Austin Dillon.

RICHARD PETTY MOTORSPORTS

  • Roy Crump … design engineer at MWR … in engineer role at RPM.
  • Cameron Kirksey … engineer at MWR … oversees quality control at RPM.
  • Craig Noble … aero engineer at MWR … same role at RPM
  • Tyler Hill … design engineer at MWR … same role at RPM
  • Barry Helms … chassis fabrication … same role at RPM
  • Robert Berrier … chassis fabrication … same role at RPM
  • Wes Evans jackman on No. 55 car … same role for No. 43 car of Aric Almirola.
  • David Cropps interior mechanic on 55 team … same role with No. 43 car.

ROUSH FENWAY RACING

  • Dr. Kent Day … specialized in vehicle dynamics at MWR … will serve as manager of simulation at Roush.
  • Vojin Jaksic … was R&D engineer at MWR … is special projects manager at Roush.
  • Brian Pattie … crew chief of the No. 55 team … crew chief for Greg Biffle
  • Billy Curwood … engineer on the No. 55 team … car chief on the No. 16 team of Greg Biffle.
  • Roman Pemberton … spotter on the No. 55 car … spotter for Trevor Bayne on the No. 6 team.
  • Joe Zanolini … rear mechanic on the No. 55 car … front end mechanic for the No. 16 team.

STEWART-HAAS RACING 

(Organization has hired close to 10 former MWR employees)

  • Billy Scott … crew chief for Clint Bowyer at MWR … Danica Patrick’s crew chief
  • Walt Smith … pit coach at MWR … same role at SHR.
  • Dax Gerringer engineer for No. 15 team … same role with No. 4 team of Kevin Harvick.
  • Richard Waldeck … lead mechanic for No. 55 team … front mechanic for SHR.
  • Drew Brown … media relations at MWR … media relations for Tony Stewart.

TEAM PENSKE

(Organization has hired close to 10 former MWR employees)

  • Kevin Chrencik … director of vehicle performance at MWR … vehicle dynamics engineer at Penske.
  • Brandon Pope … engineer on No. 55 team … engineer for No. 2 car of Brad Keselowski.
  • Joe Bisson … engineer at MWR … moves to No. 22 Xfinity car for Team Penske in that role.

TOMMY BALDWIN RACING

  • Chad Walters … engineer  at MWR and an R&D manager … oversees TBR’s engineering efforts.
  • Doug Trader … was at MWR … moves to body building shop at TBR.
  • Brent Patzack … was at MWR … moves to body building shop at TBR.

WOOD BROTHERS

  • Ryan Langley front tire changer on No. 55 car … serves on pit crew for No. 21 team.
  • Shannon Myers rear tire changer on 55 car … serves on pit crew for No. 21 team.

SPIRE SPORTS + ENTERTAINMENT

  • Ty Norris … executive vice president at MWR … President of Spire Sports + Entertainment.

TOYOTA RACING DEVELOPMENT

  • Bill McDonald … vehicle dynamics engineer at MWR … senior engineer for TRD.
  • Brandon Hartsell … vehicle dynamics engineer … simulation engineer at TRD.

A ‘crucial’ year for Hailie Deegan’s career begins today at Daytona

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Hailie Deegan will be racing a sports car today at Daytona International Speedway with an eye toward her future in stock cars.

Signed by Ford Performance to a developmental deal that will put her in a full-time ARCA car (and possibly a truck race or two) this season, Deegan was surprised when the manufacturer also expressed a desire to put her in a few IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge events.

The first will be Friday’s season-opening BMW Endurance Challenge, a four-hour warmup race at Daytona International Speedway ahead of Saturday’s Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona.

Deegan and Xfinity Series veteran Chase Briscoe will start 20th in the No. 22 Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang GT4.

MEET HAILIE DEEGAN: ‘I put my helmet on the same way as everyone else’

“I originally never planned on this, but (Ford) came to me and were like ‘we want to get you on our IMSA program,’” Deegan said. “’That’s what we did with Briscoe, (Cole) Custer, (Austin) Cindric. All the guys that came through the ranks with Ford.’

“When they told me that, I was excited because more road courses will be in the NASCAR world, and there already are quite a few. I think what makes an all-around good driver are the ones that are good at every single type of track.”

There’s been much talk of adding road and street races to the Cup schedule in the next few years, and the Xfinity Series schedule just expanded to five road courses with the move from the oval at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The No. 22 Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang GT4 that will be driven by Hailie Deegan and Chase Briscoe.

Deegan, 18, still remains a long way from the top two national series, but they are her goal, which makes 2020 critical for earning results.

“This is the year that’s very important and crucial to my career because it decides contracts for years out with sponsors getting behind you for the higher levels,” said Deegan, who had three K&N Series victories in 2018-19. “If we can do good this year, I feel I can get more people behind me so we can go in the top three level series (of NASCAR), and have sponsors that want to stay with me full time while I’m there.

“My goal is to win a few races in the ARCA Series, which is going to be hard. There are a lot of good guys, good cars this year.”

Aside from running full time in ARCA for DGR-Crosley, Deegan would “love to do a truck race” if the sponsorship materializes, “but funding right now is all focused on ARCA so we can try to work toward those championships and winning races. I know I want to be in a good car with good people behind me. If we can focus on that, hopefully everything else will come along.”

Click here to read the full version of this story from NBC Sports’ MotorSportsTalk.

2020 Rolex 24 at Daytona: Start time, TV schedule, lineup and more

Speedy Cash expands deal with Front Row Motorsports, John Hunter Nemechek

John Hunter Nemechek
Front Row Motorsports
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After sponsoring John Hunter Nemechek in two of his first three Cup Series starts last year, Speed Cash has expanded its backing of Nemechek for the 2020 season, Front Row Motorsports announced Friday.

Speedy Cash, an omni-channel financial services provider specializing in short-term loans, will be on Nemechek’s No. 38 Ford for multiple races, including events at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Kansas Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.

It will serve as an associate sponsor throughout the year for both Nemechek and Michael McDowell and his No. 34 Ford Mustang team.

Speedy Cash sponsored Nemechek last November in his Cup debut at Texas Motor Speedway and in the season finale at Miami. Nemechek finished 21st at Texas, the best of his three starts filling in for Matt Tifft in the No. 36 Ford after he stepped out of the car due to suffering a seizure.

Nemechek will be part of a deep rookie class in Cup this year after he raced full-time for GMS Racing in the Xfinity Series in 2019.

“As a driver, partnerships like this one with Speedy Cash are so important to our entire team,” Nemechek said in a press release. “It’s always great to see partners expanding their involvement in the sport. For me, Speedy Cash is pretty cool. If you need cash, there are so many easy ways you can get it using their services. I enjoyed getting to know them in the last few races of the 2019 season and we’re going to work hard to make them proud in 2020.”

 

Friday 5: As season nears, a bigger deadline looms for NASCAR

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While the Cup garage opens in two weeks at Daytona International Speedway to begin the 2020 season, a bigger deadline is looming.

It is less than 10 weeks from NASCAR President Steve Phelps’ self-imposed deadline of announcing the 2021 schedule around April 1.

Phelps made it clear in November what will be key elements to the upcoming schedule.

“We’re looking at where we’re going to have the most competitive racing that we can have, where we’re going to have full grandstands, and what does that market look like, is it a new market that we can service,” Phelps said the morning of last season’s finale in Miami.

Tracks that host Cup races — now mostly owned by NASCAR — were put on notice by Phelps’ comments.

“The two things that teams need: We need butts in seats and eyeballs on the TV,” said Steve Newmark, Roush Fenway Racing president, this week.

He stated how important attendance is for teams by noting the growth at Watkins Glen International, which had its fifth consecutive sellout of grandstand seating last year.

Fans at Watkins Glen in 2019. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

“When I started in 2010, we didn’t take a lot of partners to Watkins Glen,” Newmark said of sponsors. “Now you take a partner to Watkins Glen in a heartbeat. It is sold out, the energy there. I understand the capacity at Watkins Glen is not the same but it has this feeling, and I think really what we’re trying from a team perspective, from a Roush Fenway perspective, that’s the most important thing.

“I want to go to areas that embrace having the race, that people show up in the stands, that there is a lot of energy. That’s where I want to take my partners. I want them to see their brand in that type of setting.

“Some venues can do that with two races. Other venues it’s been more of a struggle. I would love to see us try these new venues. There will be an energy around that.”

Among Newmark’s suggestions of where NASCAR should consider racing at some point: “Mexico, Canada, street courses, different road courses, different short tracks, look at it all.”

Ryan Newman, who enters his second year at Roush Fenway Racing, said that NASCAR should consider running a Cup race on dirt.

“I’m not trying to bash anybody, we just can’t keep doing the same things we’ve been doing,” he said this week. “We just can’t. We’ve got to mix it up as a sport. We’re working on doing that and I know that.

NASCAR Trucks at Eldora Speedway in 2019. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

“But we’ve got to mix it up and make the fans want to see something different, want to see something new. A different driver. A different venue. A different type of anything. Not just a Next Gen car, that’s a part of it. … Going dirt racing can be done with the Next Gen car. If Junior Johnson was here, he’d tell you, ‘Let’s go race dirt.’ I’m telling you.”

Only the Truck series races on dirt, competing at Eldora Speedway. Cup last raced on a dirt track Sept. 30, 1970 at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, North Carolina. Richard Petty won that race.

As the sport continues to evolve — adding a night race at Martinsville, a doubleheader weekend at Pocono, and the debut of the Next Gen car next season — the makeup of the schedule in the coming years will be among the biggest tasks for NASCAR officials.

2. A big deal

After winning the Chili Bowl for the first time in 13 attempts, Kyle Larson said moments after the triumph on the MavTV broadcast: “Its a pretty different range of emotions 365 days later. I feel like I’m going to pass out. I’m sorry NASCAR, I’m sorry Daytona, but this is the biggest (expletive) race I’ve ever won. I hope to win Daytona in a few weeks but this is bad ass.”

Larson, who lost the Chili Bowl the previous year on the last lap, later explained his comment in his press conference.

“It will be fun to watch the dirt fans and the NASCAR fans go at it and maybe get a text from (NASCAR’s Steve) O’Donnell and probably (Chip Ganassi Racing chief operating officer) Doug Duchardt,” Larson said.

“I think they understand the energy that this race brings to me and how much I want to win and have wanted to win it. Obviously, I’ve said in the past that the Chili Bowl, to me, is bigger than the Daytona 500. Obviously, it’s not just because of the size of the crowd and the purse of the Daytona 500, nothing compares with that I’ve raced in.

“On a personal level, just how close I’ve been to winning this race, I think that’s where I think this race has meant more to me. But now maybe after winning the Chili Bowl, the Daytona 500 will be that next race that’s going to mean the most to me that I want to win. It’s just been a great little run and hopefully we can turn this into some good momentum into the NASCAR season.”

Ryan Newman, who competed at the Chili Bowl Nationals for the first time, defended Larson’s excitement with winning that event.

“There’s 360 drivers, 360 teams going for one trophy. That’s spectacular,” Newman said. “I raced midgets races before where I won and there were 16 cars that entered and I felt really good about it. Going back to the Kyle Larson (comment), when there’s 360 (drivers) and you have been working … your whole life to get that trophy, it makes it special. It makes it more special than anybody who is out of his shoes to understand.”

3. Memorable win

NASCAR’s test this week on the Indy road course for the Xfinity Series will give those drivers a chance to accomplish a first — be the first Xfinity driver to win on that circuit.

Brad Keselowski after winning the 2012 Nationwide race at Indianapolis. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Brad Keselowski won the first Xfinity race at Indy (it was known as the Nationwide Series at the time) in 2012. That remains a special accomplishment.

“It sticks with you,” he told NBC Sports. “I’m proud of it. … It makes me … a little sad because I don’t get to compete in that series anymore with all the rules, it’s not feasible. So there is a little bit of sorrow I have with that question (of winning there) but it certainly was a defining moment for my career.”

Keselowski also won the final Xfinity race at Lucas Oil Raceway — where the series competed from 1982-2011 before moving to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

4. 15 and counting …

Call it a good sign for some, an omen for others or one crazy coincidence but each of the past 15 Cup champions have had an even-number car number.

The last driver to win the championship with an odd number on the car was Kurt Busch. He won the 2004 title (the inaugural Chase) driving the No. 97 car.

So, if one believes in signs, the even-number streak could be a bad sign this season for drivers with odd numbers, such as Busch (No. 1), Chase Elliott (No. 9), Denny Hamlin (No. 11) and Martin Truex Jr. (No. 19) among others.

5. NASCAR at Rolex

Kyle Busch is the only active Cup driver competing in this weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway (coverage will be on NBC, NBCSN and NBC Gold: Track Pass), today’s IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge will have some additional NASCAR flavor.

MORE: A “crucial” year for Hailie Deegan’s career begins today at Daytona

MORE: Full Rolex 24 Hours coverage at MotorSportsTalk

The four-hour endurance race begins at 1:10 pm. ET (and will be streamed on the NBC Gold: Track Pass) and includes Xfinity drivers Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric. Also competing will be Hailie Deegan, who moved from Toyota’s development program to Ford’s in the offseason. She’ll spend most of her time this season running in the ARCA Series. Deegan and Briscoe will co-drive the No. 22 Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang GT4.

Matt Tifft reveals he suffered another seizure

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Matt Tifft revealed Thursday night that he suffered another seizure on Dec. 12 while on his honeymoon.

Tifft, 23, suffered a seizure Oct. 26, 2019 at Martinsville Speedway, forcing him out of his Front Row Motorsports ride for the rest of the NASCAR Cup season. He and the team announced Nov. 13 that they would end their agreement so Tifft could focus on his health.

In a social media post Thursday, Tifft detailed what happened Dec. 12 and afterward:

“This one rocked me pretty badly, as I was conscious for a lot more of the convulsions, and it really has taken everything in me to return to feeling somewhat “normal.”

Tifft also said the experience has haunted him.

“Anxiety, PTSD, fear or whatever you call it of that seizure has played through my head nearly everyday. Luckily, these last few weeks I’ve finally seen improvements after going to therapy and trying to “rewire” my brain. It started off really rough, where I could hardly leave my house without having intense anxiety and panic attacks about having another seizure, which I have never had in my life before.

“I’m committed to “rewiring” my brain and to restore my mental health. I’ve never suffered a mental illness before. Even with the brain tumor in 2016 and first seizure, I never had these effects. I never knew how debilitating it could feel to live with constant fear and anxiety.

“But now, I do see a light in this getting better, however as I continue with this road to recovery with these issues and finding answers, I just wanted to make it know that my deepest sympathy goes out to those who deal with these issues on an everyday basis, and I can’t thank my wife; family and friends enough for their continued support.”

Tifft had surgery to remove a tumor in his brain July 21, 2016. He returned racing. He placed sixth in points in the Xfinity Series in 2018. Tifft competed in Cup in 2019 as a rookie until his seizure at Martinsville.