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.’’

Today’s Cup race at Miami: Start time, lineup and more

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The NASCAR season comes to a close today with the Cup Series finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and defending champion Martin Truex Jr. will decide the title.

Whoever has the best finish, wins the championship.

Here’s all the info you need for the season finale.

(All times are Eastern)

START: Actor Josh Dallas of NBC’s “Manifest” will give the command to start engines at 3:11 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:20 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 267 laps (400.5 miles) around the 1.5-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 80. Stage 2 ends on Lap 160.

PRERACE SCHEDULE: Garage opens at 9 a.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 12:30 p.m. Driver introductions are at 2:30 p.m. Moment of silence for David Pearson at 3:03 p.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: Sr. Master Sergeant Ryan Carson will perform the anthem at 3:05 p.m.

TV/RADIO: NBC will broadcast the race beginning at 3 p.m. Coverage begins at 1 p.m. with NASCAR America on NBCSN and switches to NBC at 1:30 p.m. Countdown to Green beings at 2 p.m. on NBC. Motor Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 1:30 p.m. and also can be heard at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will have MRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for partly cloudy skies with a high of 82 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Martin Truex Jr. led the final 51 laps to win the race and championship over Kyle Busch.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the complete starting grid.

Tony Stewart says JGR made ‘very smart decision’ on pit stall picks

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Tony Stewart, whose organization will compete against Joe Gibbs Racing for the Cup title Sunday, said he has no problems with JGR’s decision to have Denny Hamlin’s team not take the No. 1 pit stall so Kyle Busch, who is racing for the crown, can have it.

Hamlin’s team had the first pick of pit stalls after winning the pole but did not choose the No. 1 stall since that team is not running for a title. Busch, who starts second and whose team had the second pick, then took the No. 1 stall.

MORE: Denny Hamlin reacts to giving up the No. 1 pit stall to Kyle Busch

MORE: Cup pit stall assignments

“It’s a smart decision,” said Stewart, who will have Kevin Harvick racing for the Cup crown Sunday. “If we were in the same position, I would hope we would be smart enough to do the same thing. I’ve already seen all the drama and the people complaining either way.

“These four teams are here to win a championship and if your organization can help you do that and give you every tool available to get that done, you’re stupid to not do it.

“I’m behind what JGR did 100 percent. You have to do that. You have to put yourself in the best position to win the race and the championship. They made a very, very smart decision.”

Car owner Joe Gibbs defended his decision because Busch is running for a championship and Hamlin.

“We’re going to do everything we can to win the race there, but we also, for us, have a championship on the line and what we would love to do is win that championship,” Gibbs said. “That’s how the decision was made for us.

“I think if there is any criticism, it goes to me.”

Xfinity race results, final point standings after Miami

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Tyler Reddick claimed the Xfinity Series title with his win in Saturday’s season finale.

Reddick led 44 laps, including the final 37, on his way to his third career win.

Reddick beat Cole Custer, John Hunter Nemechek, Daniel Hemric and Austin Cindric.

Christopher Bell finished 11th, a lap down after he pit with 10 laps to go for a flat tire.

Click here for Xfinity race results

Elliott Sadler ended his final full-time season fifth in the standings.

Click here for Xfinity points report

Tyler Reddick wins Xfinity race in Miami, championship

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Tyler Reddick won Saturday’s Xfinity race at Homestead-Miami Speedway to claim the Xfinity Series championship.

The win is the first for the JR Motorsports rookie since he won the season opener at Daytona.

Reddick led 44 of 200 laps and defeated Cole Custer (second), Daniel Hemric (fourth) and Christopher Bell (11th) for the title.

Custer led a race-high 95 laps but lost the lead in the final stage during green-flag pit stops after he stayed out a few laps longer than Reddick and Bell.

Reddick took the lead when he passed Bell out of Turn 4 with 37 laps to go. He spent nearly the entire final run driving against the outside wall.

“The year wasn’t the smoothest for us, but I knew coming in here if we just made it to Homestead, this is a great track for me,” Reddick told NBCSN. “It rewards my aggression. Tonight we hit the wall a lot, but the car kept in one piece long enough to get to the end.”

The race was Reddick’s last for JRM before moving to Richard Childress Racing for 2019.

Bell, who won a rookie record seven races this season, had to pit for a flat tire with 10 laps to go.

“We just weren’t good enough,” Bell told NBCSN. “Bottom line, I wasn’t fast enough. Once the tires started wearing away, those guys just drove right back by me.”

STAGE 1 WINNER: Cole Custer

STAGE 2 WINNER: Cole Custer

MORE: Race results, points report

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: With his title, Tyler Reddick also claimed the Rookie of the Year award over Christopher Bell.

OWNERS TITLE: Cole Custer’s second place finish earned Stewart-Haas Racing the owners championship.

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: John Hunter Nemechek led 52 laps and finished third … Ryan Preece placed sixth in his last start for Joe Gibbs Racing … Ross Chastain placed 16th in his last start for JD Motorsports before moving to Chip Ganassi Racing full-time in next season.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Elliott Sadler finished 14th, a lap off the lead in his final full-time start after he pit with 20 laps to go for a vibration … Caesar Bacarella placed 34th after he spun on the final lap of Stage 1.

NOTABLE: Tyler Reddick is the first driver to win the first and last race of the season in the Xfinity Series … All three of JR Motorsports’ Xfinity titles have come with the No. 9 car … Reddick joins Chase Elliott (2014) and William Byron (2017) as the third rookie to win the title … Reddick gave crew chief David Elenz his second consecutive Xfinity title after he won with Byron last year.

QUOTE OF THE RACE No. 1: “We just stuck to our plan. I’m not honestly second-guessing it. Our lap times over the course of the race, we were as good as we were the whole race at the end of the race. (Tyler Reddick) found a lot of speed at the end.” – Crew chief Jeff Meendering to NBC Sports on the pit strategy to not stop immediately after Tyler Reddick made his final stop.

QUOTE OF THE RACE No. 2: “I couldn’t do it. I don’t know, I think that’s just something I need to practice I guess. I’m at a loss for words for that.” Cole Custer to NBCSN on not being able to catch Tyler Reddick in the closing laps while running against the wall.

WHAT’S NEXT: The 2019 season opener at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, Feb. 16.