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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.

NASCAR will have choose rule for All-Star Race at Bristol

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Following support from drivers, NASCAR will allow competitors to choose which lane they want to restart in during the July 15 All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The choose rule designates a spot on the track where a driver must select if they wish to restart on the inside lane or outside lane. The choose rule also will be in place for the NASCAR Open.

NASCAR also announced the format for the NASCAR Open and All-Star Race.

In the NASCAR Open, which is for drivers who have not qualified for the All-Star Race:

  • Stage 1 will be 35 laps
  • Stage 2 will be 35 laps
  • The final stage will be 15 laps

The winner of each stage advances to the All-Star Race. After the NASCAR Open, the Fan Vote winner will be announced. That will go to the driver not yet qualified for the All-Star Race after competing in the NASCAR Open.

In the All-Star Race, the format will be:

  • Stage 1 will be 55 laps
  • Stage 2 will be 35 laps
  • Stage 3 will be 35 laps
  • The final stage will be 15 laps

Both green flag and yellow flag laps will count in the first three stages. Only green flag laps will count in the final stage. There will be an unlimited number of attempts at a green, white, checkered finish under green flag conditions.

NASCAR also stated that the car number will move from the door toward the rear wheel to give more exposure to the teams’ sponsors

The biggest change is the choose rule. At Bristol, the outside line is dominant on restarts. The leader chooses to restart on the outside line and the driver starting in the second row — in fourth place — often is second shortly after the restart because of the lane’s advantage. With the rule change, others would have the chance to start on the outside lane if they wanted.

“I see nothing bad that it can bring,” Joey Logano said of the chose rule concept in May. “It brings another strategy to the table, it’s definitely something to talk about. You don’t have luck becoming involved. …

“I tell you, if I see a bunch of 12-year-olds do it in the Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway, I’m pretty sure all of us could figure it out.”

Said Austin Dillon: “As a sport we’re always changing. We’ve done a really good job with the mile-and-a-half program and brought it back to life. I think the next thing is trying to make it better for the fans and create more drama than it already has.”

Some drivers have called for this type of rule to prevent the brake checking that takes place at the exit of pit road so a driver can be in an even-number position in the running order and restart on the outside lane.

“It takes out pit crew’s fast stops,” Dillon said. “Your pit crew could’ve gained a couple of spots there, but instead you’re giving up two spots because you’d rather start on the outside. That’s gotta stop. I think it’s gonna knock someone’s nose in at the end of pit road before too long, so that will end a guy’s race. I don’t feel like it is a hard thing to do.”

The All-Star Race was moved from Charlotte Motor Speedway to Bristol Motor Speedway because of the COVID-19 pandemic and North Carolina restrictions on mass gatherings. Bristol will be allowed to have up to 30,000 fans.

Drivers who have already clinched an All-Star Race spot: Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Justin Haley, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Erik Jones, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr.

 

Can anybody catch Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick?

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Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin.

Or is it Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick?

They’ve won four of the last six Cup races, including the past two, and came within a late caution flag of being the last two Brickyard 400 winners at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, site of Sunday’s race (4 p.m. ET on NBC).

MORE: Indianapolis weekend schedule

MORE: Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick 1-2 in Power Rankings

“For the most part, when we have had chances to win races, we have won them,” Harvick said. “I think Sunday (at Pocono) was probably the only one that I could point to and say that we had the car to win the race and didn’t win the race. I think for the majority of the races that we have had chances to win we have capitalized on those situations.”

That Pocono race Sunday? Harvick finished second to Hamlin, who has won two of the last four races.

“I would say specifically the last 10 to 11 (races) we’ve been exceptional, really since coming back from the break that we had,” Hamlin said. “I thought we’ve been really good.

“My team is really strong. They’re doing a lot of really good work at the race shop preparing our cars to be set up, optimized right from the first run of the day.

“Where we’re really struggling is not getting stage points. I think we’d be winning the regular season if we could get some. The way the races have played out, we’ve kind of made our bed to try to win the race because we’ve had race‑winning cars. I’ll definitely take race wins over stage wins, especially knowing that a race win counts for five (playoff points).”

Harvick enters Sunday’s race at Indy as the defending winner. He led 118 of 160 laps in last year’s race, winning by more than six seconds.

In 2018, Hamlin led at Indy when a caution with six laps to go took away his advantage. Brad Keselowski passed Hamlin coming to the white flag and won.

If not Harvick or Hamlin this weekend, Keselowski could be one to watch.

“My confidence level right now is very, very high that we can be a contender for the entire season and continue to build and get stronger,” said Keselowski, who has two wins and eight top-10 finishes since the season resumed in May. “Very, very pleased to see how the team has come together. … Now we’re starting to show a lot of speed. I don’t think we’ve reached our full potential.”

Even with Keselowski’s success, Harvick and Hamlin have been stout. This is how dominant Harvick and Hamlin have been all season and since May:

Most wins this year (15 races)

Most wins since season resumed (11 races)

  • Denny Hamlin (3 wins)
  •  Kevin Harvick (3 wins)
  • Brad Keselowski (2 wins)

Most top-five finishes this year (15 races)

Most top-five finishes since season resumed (11 races)

  • Denny Hamlin (8 top 5s)
  • Kevin Harvick (7 top 5s)
  • Chase Elliott (6 top 5s)
  • Ryan Blaney (6 top 5s)

Most top 10 finishes this season (15 races)

  • Kevin Harvick (12 top 10s)
  • Denny Hamlin (10 top 10s)
  • Brad Keselowski (10 top 10s)

Most top 10 finishes since season resumed (11 races)

  • Kevin Harvick (8 top 10s)
  • Denny Hamlin (8 top 10s)
  • Brad Keselowski (8 top 10s)
  • Martin Truex Jr. (8 top 10s)

Patriots of America PAC to be primary sponsor for Go Fas Racing in nine races

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Patriots of America, a political action committee supporting President Donald Trump’s re-election bid, will be the primary sponsor of Corey LaJoie’s car this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Go Fas Racing announced Wednesday.

Patriots of America PAC will be the primary sponsor on the car for eight additional races.  

“Our mission is to get voters registered and to the polls in November,” said Jeff Whaley on behalf of Patriots of America PAC. “We are excited about our sponsorship with Go Fas Racing No. 32 and Corey LaJoie. We feel this partnership is the best way to help us communicate this message to the NASCAR community and encourage all Americans to do their part by heading to the polls.”

Team owner Archie St. Hilaire said in a statement: “I am honored to be part of the President’s re-election campaign through the Patriots of America PAC. As a Trump 2020 supporter, this team will do everything possible to secure victory on and off the track electing President Donald Trump to a second term. Let us bring this country back and Keep America Great!”

According to public documents, Patriots of America has paid Go Fas Racing $350,000 to this point for the sponsorship.

Sunday’s Cup race airs at 4 p.m. ET on NBC.

NASCAR, Coca-Cola to honor military, frontline healthcare workers

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NASCAR will honor members of the U.S. Armed Forces and frontline healthcare workers throughout the month of July as part of this year’s expanded “NASCAR Salutes Refreshed by Coca-Cola” initiative.

Per a media release, NASCAR said the program will be “an industry-wide opportunity to recognize and thank those who have gone above and beyond to keep society safe and healthy.”

The kickoff event for the program begins with Sunday’s Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 at the Brickyard (4 p.m. ET on NBC, IMS Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), shifting to a mid-summer window due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We take pride in honoring all who work tirelessly to keep our nation safe, whether a frontline worker in the fight against COVID-19 or part of our U.S. Armed Forces protecting us around the world,” said Jill Gregory, executive vice president and chief marketing and content officer, NASCAR. “The NASCAR industry has always been passionate about saluting our nation’s heroes both past and present, and we once again look forward to recognizing those who serve.”

Per a statement in the media release, NASCAR and Coca-Cola will create content to honor the “heroic work from our military and first responder community during the COVID-19 pandemic. … Through NASCAR digital and social channels, the industry will spotlight even more stories with a new ‘NASCAR Salutes Refreshing Moments’ feature that will also be hosted on NASCAR.com/Salutes.”

“While this crisis has impacted everyone’s daily lives, we are able to race because of the selfless acts by our military community and frontline workers,” said John Mount, vice president, sports marketing and region assets, Coca-Cola North America. “NASCAR Salutes offers an impactful opportunity to showcase our pride and appreciation for these heroes and their families.”

In addition to premier partner Coca-Cola, several other NASCAR Official Partners will also take part in the program:

  • Mack Trucks will wrap its NASCAR Mack Anthem haulers with NASCAR Salutes-themed graphics voted on by fans at com/NASCARSalutes. The paint schemes honor both military and frontline heroes and the winning designs will be unveiled July 4 and debut during the NASCAR Salutes window.
  • AMR, the “Official Emergency Medical Services Partner of NASCAR,” will feature the NASCAR Salutes Refreshed by Coca-Cola branding on its NASCAR safety trucks and safety team helmets throughout the program.
  • Goodyear continued its tradition of replacing the iconic “Eagle” sidewall for 600 Miles of Remembrance at Charlotte Motor Speedway. This year’s recognition was the Honor and Remember organization, which works closely with the industry to honor gold star families who have lost family members while serving.
  • Mack Trucks and Blue-Emu also collaborated on a day-long effort to thank truckers and critical workers for their hard work during COVID-19. After a kickoff at Mack Trucks’ headquarters, NASCAR’s Mack Anthem haulers visited Virginia-based Sovah Health to thank the frontline workers at the hospital en route to the NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway.

Fans can learn more about the heroes honored throughout the NASCAR Salutes Refreshed by Coca-Colaprogram by visiting NASCAR.com/Salutes.