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.’’

Coca-Cola 600 resumes after rain delay

Coca-Cola 600
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The Coca-Cola 600 is back under way following a rain delay.

The caution was issued on Lap 49 for rain and the field was brought to pit road. The red flag was issued at 7:07 p.m. ET and lifted at 8:16 p.m. ET.

The top five at the time of the stoppage was Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott, Tyler Reddick and Joey Logano.

Check back for updates.

 

Denny Hamlin team faces potential penalty after ballast falls off car

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Denny Hamlin was involved in an incident even before Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 got underway that could result in a hefty penalty.

A chunk of tungsten ballast — which teams use to bring Cup cars up to minimum weight standards — fell off Hamlin’s car on a parade lap.

The incident puts Hamlin’s crew chief Chris Gabehart and several others on the team in violation of the NASCAR rule book, which means a hefty penalty could be in the offing.

According to the NASCAR rule book, the penalty is 12.5.2.7.4.d: Minimum safety penalty options — “Loss or separation of added ballast from the vehicle will result in a four Race suspension of the crew chief, car chief, and head engineer. If NASCAR cannot identify which series or vehicle the lost ballast originated from, all vehicles entered for that Event from and associated with the team organization identified on the lost ballast may receive the suspensions.”

If NASCAR implements the potential penalty, Gabehart and others could miss the following four races: May 27 at Charlotte, May 31 at Bristol, June 7 at Atlanta and June 10 at Martinsville.

Several of those tracks are good for Hamlin, including winning the Bristol summer night race last year, as well as was fourth at the Martinsville playoff race last fall and 11th at Atlanta.

NASCAR ordered Hamlin back to pit road where the No. 11 crew added a new chunk of ballast to Hamlin’s car. He returned to the race eight laps down.

Here’s what a fabricator from rival team Stewart-Haas Racing tweeted about the incident:

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Coca-Cola 600 starting lineup

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Chevrolet drivers swept the top three rows for tonight’s Coca-Cola 600, led by Kurt Busch‘s pole-winning lap of 181.269 mph.

Jimmie Johnson was next with a lap of 181.214 mph. He was followed by Chase Elliott (181.002 mph), Matt Kenseth (180.923), rookie Tyler Reddick (180.905) and Austin Dillon (180.741).

Ford driver Joey Logano, who starts seventh after a lap of 180.451 mph, was the top qualifier not driving a Chevrolet.

TO THE REAR: Matt DiBenedetto (backup car), Brad Keselowski (unapproved adjustment), Aric Almirola (unapproved adjustment), JJ Yeley (unapproved adjustment) and Timmy Hill (unapproved adjustment)

Click here for Coca-Cola 600 starting lineup

Kurt Busch on pole for Coca-Cola 600

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Kurt Busch will lead the field to the green flag for tonight’s Coca-Cola 600 after claiming the pole Sunday afternoon at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

It is Busch’s 28th career pole and first at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Busch is joined on the front row by Jimmie Johnson. Chase Elliott qualified third and is followed by Matt Kenseth and rookie Tyler Reddick. Austin Dillon was sixth, as Chevrolet drivers took the top six spots.

Click here for qualifying results

Aric Almirola spun coming to take the green flag to begin his qualifying lap. He grazed the wall with his rear bumper.

Matt DiBenedetto slapped the wall off Turn 4 during his qualifying lap and will go to a backup car and start at the rear of the field.