Before the helmet goes on: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. provides glimpse into Daytona 500 prep

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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is not one to listen to music to pump himself up before a race.

One, there’s little time between appearances, driver introductions, greeting sponsors and taking photos before the race

Two, unlike other sports where emotion can play a key role in an athlete’s performance, Stenhouse knows he needs to be calm in the car.

“You’ve got to be focused,’’ Stenhouse said. “I like talking to my crew chief right before to talk about our strategy before the race.’’

Last weekend, Stenhouse shared his thoughts, recording for NBC Sports what he was doing and thinking about in the hours leading up to the Daytona 500, a race in which he finished 22nd.

Stenhouse recorded how he was preparing for the season’s biggest race. Here is what he said:

Saturday, Feb. 20

“Just got done watching the Xfinity race … trying to learn as much as I could. The first race that we’ve seen during the day with the hot temperatures. I think I learned a little bit, definitely want to sleep on it and see if we can’t do something tomorrow with that.

“Right now headed to my Fastenal dinner. Generally, I have a sponsor dinner once a weekend at least, sometimes not at all. But the biggest race of the year, a lot of sponsors are in town, so I’ve got a dinner to do tonight with Fastenal, and then we’ll see what happens after the dinner.”

Saturday night  

“It’s about 9:15, just wrapped up dinner with my Fastenal guests and enjoyed some good fish at the Chart House. Headed back to the track and getting ready to call my crew chief Nick Sandler to talk about the strategy for tomorrow and anything else they have in mind of what they saw today during the last practice that we did not run.

“So, go over that with him and probably get back to the bus, and I’ll be watching Supercross, watching, hopefully, Ryan Dungey winning the Supercross race. After that, just get a good night’s sleep. I’m going to try to drink a lot of water tonight. It’s going to be hot tomorrow. So I’ll get a good night’s sleep and get up in the morning ready to go.’’

Saturday night

“I forgot to add while I’m watching Supercross, I’m going to watch some of the USAC races from Ocala (Fla.), some dirt late model from Volusia.

“I like to do that nights before races, it just helps me relax and enjoy racing and what I grew up doing. It kind of takes me back, especially before the Daytona 500, our biggest race of the year.

“You’ve always got to remember where you came from and what got you to this big stage. Came back from dinner and seeing everybody up and partying. To think that they’re here for you and to watch this race that you’re going to be putting on, that’s pretty special.

“It’s our biggest race of the year that we really want to win, really want to have a good showing, get our season kicked off on the right foot. It’s all very humbling, but it’s also a very important race for us.’

Sunday, Feb. 21 (race morning)

“Just got done getting ready. Danica always makes us a good breakfast race day morning. Had bacon, eggs and waffles.

“Getting ready to start my day. Like to get up at least an hour before I have to do my first appearance so that I can hang out, hang out with the dogs and Danica and just kind of a relaxing morning. Getting ready to start my day and head off to appearances and on to the next one and the next one and the next one.

After the drivers meeting

“Just finished up a very long drivers meeting (it lasted 30 minutes), introducing every celebrity, baseball player, politician, president and CEO of every company, which is cool, recognize the people that come to support us and the ones that help support the teams.

“Long drivers meeting, always kind of the same Daytona 500 meeting as far as length of time. Now it’s back in the bus to eat lunch and just relax. Maybe 15, 20 minutes before (driver) intros.

“Got a long race ahead. Been drinking a lot of water, staying hydrating. Nothing else much going on. Just going to relax. Make sure I get relaxed and focused for today’s festivities.

“Big race, mentally draining as far as running three-wide all day. When that happens it tends to run you down a little bit. I’ve got one last call to talk to my spotter, Mike Herman Jr., get a better game plan of what he’s thinking after talking to my crew chief. That’s been our day. Long day. Long morning, but getting ready to get this race underway.

On a golf cart on the way to driver introductions

“Beautiful day out. We’re heading to driver intros. Start 19th, today. We’ll see what happens. The first part of the race just kind of always feel it out.

“My spotter Mike Herman and I just race hard at the beginning. If we get shuffled to the back, we’ll kind of ride it out and race every now and then. Just see how it goes. Hopefully, we can do another video in victory lane.’’

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.”