NASCAR driver faces seven charges in biggest tobacco-smuggling bust in North America

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NASCAR driver/owner Derek White turned himself into authorities Wednesday and faces seven charges in connection to the biggest tobacco-smuggling bust in North American history, NBC Sports has learned.

Sgt. Daniel Thibaudeau of the Quebec Provincial Police told NBC Sports that White was being interrogated Wednesday. White, who turned himself in after learning of an arrest warrant in his name, was expected to be arraigned Wednesday night.

Canadian officials, along with assistance from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Homeland Security, launched the investigation in 2014, Thibaudeau said. Nearly 60 individuals were arrested and nearly 70 searches took place Wednesday. About 700 officers from Canada and the U.S. were involved.

White, 45 and from Kahnawake, Quebec, Canada, became the first Native American driver in the Sprint Cup Series when he raced at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last July. He finished 39th in the 43-car field.

He has made 22 career Xfinity starts from 2012 to this year. He finished last in the 40-car field March 5 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and failed to qualify for the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway. White, who owned his team, drove in 13 Xfinity races last year with a best finish of 22nd at Daytona.

White also ran in six Camping World Truck Series races between 2009-14.

Thibaudeau said that the investigation has proof of at least 158 transports of illegal tobacco from North Carolina to Canada from 2014-16. He said about 2,294 tons of tobacco were transported. Thibaudeau said that would lead to about $530 million Canadian in taxes not paid.

Bloomberg reported that the organization bought shipments of tobacco leaf in North Carolina and trucked them to Canada where they were resold. Profits were used to purchase cocaine and some of the money was laundered overseas. By not declaring the tobacco at the border, no taxes were paid.

Thibaudeau said that the seven charges White faces are:

  • Three counts of conspiracy to commit fraud against the government
  • Three counts of fraud toward the government
  • One count of profiteering as a criminal organization

Among the items seized in the various searches Wednesday were:

  • More than 1,800 pounds of cocaine
  • About 46 pounds of methamphetamine
  • Thirty-five pounds of cannabis
  • 100 grams of fentanyl
  • More than $1.5 million Canadian in cash
  • More than $3 million U.S. in cash

In a statement, Captain Frédérick Gaudreau, Chief of the crime investigation against the State of the Sûreté du Québec, said: “The MYGALE project is the largest ever made to date in America on tobacco smuggling, but also on cross-border crime between Canada and the United States.’’

Chase Elliott wins Cup Most Popular Driver award

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Chase Elliott was selected as the NMPA Most Popular Driver in a fan vote announced during Thursday’s NASCAR Awards show.

It is the second consecutive victory for Elliott in the category.

“Honored to have two,” Elliott said. “It’s really more than a trophy or award. It is about the people you see at the race track.”

It is the 29th consecutive year that either an Elliott or Earnhardt has won the award.

The last driver not named Elliott or Earnhardt to win this award was Darrell Waltrip in 1990.

Other award winners included:

The Bill France Award of Excellence, an award that is not given every year, was presented to car owner Joe Gibbs for his signifiant contribution to the sport.

The NMPA Myers Brothers Award for outstanding contribution to the sport was presented to Darrell Waltrip.

The Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award is Joe Vaughn, who has volunteered for nearly two decades, raising both awareness and funds on behalf of the Project HOPE Foundation, based in Greenville, South Carolina. The foundation’s mission is to provide a lifespan of services to the autism community to help families, open minds, promote inclusion and expand potential.

Watch NASCAR Cup Awards Show at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN

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Get settled into your favorite easy chair, make sure you have plenty of snacks and beverages on hand and get ready for the last big event of 2019 on the NASCAR schedule: tonight’s NASCAR Awards Show.

The show will be broadcast on NBCSN from 8-10:30 p.m. ET from Nashville, Tennessee, for the first time. And if you miss some of the show, don’t worry, there’ll be a replay immediately afterward, also on NBCSN.

Kyle Busch will be the main attraction for tonight’s show, being celebrated for winning his second NASCAR Cup championship this past season.

Also, the 2019 NASCAR Cup Most Popular Driver award winner will be revealed. Will it be defending winner Chase Elliott, reigning champion Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., Matt DiBenedetto … or someone else? You definitely need to tune in to find out.

And to get you in the mood, we’ll replay Wednesday’s Burnouts on Broadway at 7 p.m. ET, also on NBCSN.

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Will Daniel Suarez race for Richard Childress Racing in 2020?

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The president of Richard Childress Racing said it is a “longshot” that Daniel Suarez will drive a third Cup entry for the organization in 2020 but said RCR would like to have Suarez drive its No. 2 Xfinity car next year.

Suarez has not decided where he’ll race in 2020 after losing his ride with Stewart-Haas Racing this year.

Suarez has been linked with RCR. A third Cup entry would require RCR to acquire another charter for that car. It also could mean that the organization would need to hire additional people if they expanded to three full-time cars.

“I think that would be a long shot in a Cup program,” Torrey Galida told NBC Sports about Suarez in a third RCR Cup entry. “We’ve talked to him about an Xfinity program. We’d love to have him in an Xfinity car, and we think we could win another championship next year with Daniel. He’s a very talented young man.”

Richard Childress Racing’s No. 21 Xfinity car will run the full season with multiple drivers in 2020. Myatt Snider and Anthony Alfredo have been announced to drive that car. Galida said the team is looking at Kaz Grala, Austin Dillon and possibly two-time series champ Tyler Reddick driving that car in select races.

RCR ran the No. 21 car in nine of 33 Xfinity races this past season. It ran the No. 2 car in every race.

If Suarez, the 2016 Xfinity champion, drove for RCR in the Xfinity Series next year, it would be with the organization’s No. 2 car.

“We could still do that and we would do that,” Galida said of a full-time Xfinity effort for Suarez. “That’s the kind of opportunity we would be interested in.”

Galida said it just is a matter of hearing what Suarez decides.

“I think he knows what we’ve got to offer, and I think he’s just weighing his alternatives and trying to determine what is best for him,” Galida told NBC Sports. “I’m sure that going back to the Xfinity Series is not his first choice. I think in the right equipment it could be a really good move for him.”

Galida said they could go into January before hearing from Suarez but noted that “the sooner the better. People are your biggest issue. You want to put the right people around him.”

Next April’s Xfinity race at Bristol to have new sponsor

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Bristol Motor Speedway announced Thursday that partner Alsco, along with Darden Restaurants and its Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen brand, will sponsor next April’s Xfinity Series race there.

The Cheddar’s 300 presented by Alsco will take place on Saturday, April 4, 2020.

Alsco is a global leader in uniform and linen rental services. In addition to its entitlement at Bristol Motor Speedway, Alsco will take part in Xfinity Series entitlements at three other Speedway Motorsports Inc. racetracks: Kentucky Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Alsco’s initial entitlement at BMS came this past April with the Alsco 300 Xfinity Series race, won by Christopher Bell, who earned a $100,000 bonus through Xfinity’s Dash 4 Cash program.

Alsco is also a sponsor for Richard Childress Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports and JR Motorsports.

“Bristol is the place for historic finishes and close, hard-knock racing action,” said Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager at Bristol Motor Speedway. “Alsco and our new friends at Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen understand the reputation of racing at The Last Great Colosseum and we’re ready to show them an incredible experience. The Cheddar’s 300 presented by Alsco is a must-see event on the NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule.”

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