Wood Brothers, Ryan Blaney feel right at home at Martinsville

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This is a very big weekend for Wood Brothers Racing at Martinsville Speedway.

It’s the first time the Wood Brothers, whose operation began 66 years ago in nearby Stuart, Virginia, have competed in a Sprint Cup race at their home track since 2011.

And it’s also the first time Ryan Blaney will drive a Sprint Cup car at the half-mile bullring.

“It’s nice to be back at Martinsville with the Wood Brothers team,” Blaney said during a Friday morning news conference at the track. “It’s nice to be back at pretty much their home track.

“Stuart (VA) is only 20 miles away from here, not even, so it’s cool to be back here and with those guys and kind of have everybody out and see everything.”

Team patriarch Glen Wood, 90, is expected to attend Sunday’s race, Blaney said.

“It’s really going to be nice to get him to another race, so hopefully that will go well for him,” Blaney said.

And Blaney hopes things will go well for him in Sunday’s race. While this will be his first Cup race at Martinsville, he has five previous starts in a Truck there, with three fifth-place finishes, as well as an eighth- and 16th-place finish.

So, in a way, he kind of feels right at home, both with his past experience there, as well as his own personal legacy at Martinsville.

“I remember growing up watching my dad race here,” Blaney said. “I grew up 45 minutes away in High Point, North Carolina, and I would come to this race every year and watch my dad and watch the trucks.

“I just thought it was such a cool place. It’s really neat to be able to run a Cup car, let alone the 21 car over here. That just kind of adds to the special factor, but it’s nice to be back and cool to be making my first Cup start here.”

Blaney has performed well at times in the first five races of the season. He finished sixth at Las Vegas and 10th the following week at Phoenix.

But he also struggled at Daytona (19th), Atlanta (25th) and two weeks ago at Fontana (36th).

“It’s good to have a couple top-10s and have some strong runs,” Blaney said. “I always say there are some races you wish you could take back, like Atlanta and Fontana a couple of weeks ago.

“We blew a tire (at Fontana), but those are just problems you have to minimize, and it stinks you have two of them early off in the year, but you try to learn from them as much as you can and try to grow from them and try to not have those happen again.”

This is the first full-time season in the Sprint Cup Series for the Wood Brothers since 2008.

“I honestly get that question every single weekend – if there’s pressure with the Wood Brothers going back to this track they haven’t been to in a while,” Blaney said. “It’s been a lot of fun to drive for them and be here every week and work with everybody on this race team, whether they’re new or veterans of the Wood Brothers team.

“It’s just cool to be at the track and be around everybody, so there’s definitely no pressure. We’re just out here trying to relax and have fun, and it’s just kind of a bonus that we’re here in their home state and their home track, where we’re going to have a lot of fans.”

But there’s also a lot of comfort in knowing how good the Ford Fusion he’s driving is, as well.

“It’s nice to know we have fast race cars,” Blaney said. “We’ve had fairly good cars every single weekend and we’re just getting better every single weekend.

“As we work together, as this team kind of bonds – this is a fairly new team. … We kept most of the Wood Brothers personnel that has been there for a long time, but we brought in some new people just to help out with the full-time gig because it’s a lot more work.

“They’re just kind of getting acclimated to each other. … The more they work together, the stronger that relationship is going to be, and I think it will get a lot smoother from there on out, but it’s been a good start to the year so far.”

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Helio Castroneves rules out Daytona 500

Helio Castroneves Daytona 500
Robert Scheer/Indy Star/USA TODAY NETWORK
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Helio Castroneves might be at the 2023 Daytona 500, but the four-time Indy 500 winner won’t be in a race car.

During a news conference Thursday at Daytona International Speedway, Castroneves confirmed in response to a question from NBC Sports that he essentially has ruled out attempting to make his NASCAR Cup Series debut in the Feb. 19 season opener.

As recently as last Thursday at Rolex 24 Media Day, Castroneves, 47, said he still was working on trying to piece together a deal.

The Brazilian had been negotiating with the Cup team co-owned by boxer Floyd Mayweather and would have been in an “open” entry that lacked guaranteed entry to the Great American Race. That potentially would leave him in the precarious position of needing to make the race on qualifying speed or a qualifying race finish (as action sports star Travis Pastrana likely might need in his Cup debut).

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“Unfortunately for me, lack of experience, no testing,” Castroneves said. “A lot of things. I believe it would be a little bit tough throwing myself in such a short notice, and to go in a place that you’ve got to race yourself into it. So as of right now, yes, it’s not going to happen.

“But we did have an opportunity. We just got to elaborate a little bit more to give me a little more experience on that. So there is more things to come ahead of us, but as of right now, I want to focus on the IndyCar program as well and (the Rolex 24 at Daytona).”

Castroneves, who has a residence in Key Biscayne, said he still might attend the Daytona 500

“I might just come and see and watch it and continue to take a look and see what’s going to be in the future,” he said.

Castroneves enters Saturday’s Rolex 24 at Daytona having won the event the past two years. He made his signature fence-climb after winning last year with Meyer Shank Racing, which he will be driving for full time in the NTT IndyCar Series this year. He became the fourth four-time Indy 500 winner in history in his 2021 debut with Meyer Shank Racing.

The 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar champion also has indicated an interest in Trackhouse Racing’s Project 91 car that aims to place international drivers in a Cup ride (such as Kimi Raikkonen at Watkins Glen International last year). Team co-owner Justin Marks recently tweeted Trackhouse wouldn’t field the Project 91 car at the Daytona 500.

After winning the 2022 Superstar Racing Experience opener, SRX CEO Don Hawk had promised he would help secure a Daytona 500 ride for Castroneves.

Castroneves has been angling for a NASCAR ride for years, dating to when he drove for Team Penske from 2000-20. After winning the Rolex 24 last year, he said he had been lobbying Ray Evernham and Tony Stewart for help with getting in a Cup car.

Though Castroneves is out, Sports Business Journal’s Adam Stern reported that Mayweather’s The Money Team Racing still is considering IndyCar driver Conor Daly for its seat.

Fire at Reaume Brothers Racing shop injures three

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A Thursday fire at the Reaume Brothers Racing shop in Mooresville, North Carolina, injured three individuals, according to Mooresville (North Carolina) Fire-Rescue.

Firefighters were dispatched to the shop, which is scheduled to field entries for driver Mason Massey in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series this season, at about 11:30 a.m. Thursday.

The fire department extinguished the blaze quickly. The department stated on its Facebook page that one individual was transported to Lake Norman Regional hospital for smoke inhalation, and another was transported to Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem, N.C. with burn injuries. A third was treated and released.

The team stated Thursday night on social media that Taylor Collier and Devin Fokin had been treated and released. The team stated that Taylor was treated for smoke inhalation and Fokin was treated “for serious burns.”

The Mooresville Fire Marshall’s office is investigating the cause of the fire. The fire department said the shop sustained “significant fire damage.”

In a tweet, the team said it is determining the extent of damage to the building. “More importantly,” it said, “a few of our team members did sustain injuries during the fire and are being transported for medical treatment.”

 

Trackhouse, RFK Racing, Front Row Motorsports sign sponsorship deals

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Trackhouse Racing, RFK Racing and Front Row Motorsports announced sponsorship deals Thursday morning.

Trackhouse said WWEX, a Dallas-based global logistics group, will increase its sponsorship presence with the team this year, serving as the primary sponsor in 21 races for drivers Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez.

WWEX will appear on Chastain’s Chevrolets in 19 races and will sponsor Suarez twice. The organization was a Trackhouse sponsor in 11 events in 2022, which was a breakout season for both Chastain and Suarez.

RFK announced that Solomon Plumbing, which joined the team last season, will expand its presence this season and in future years. The Michigan-based company will serve as the primary sponsor for several races on driver Brad Keselowski‘s No. 6 Ford.

MORE: Chase Briscoe signs contract extension with Stewart-Haas

Solomon specializes in plumbing and fire services for new development and construction. It initially sponsored Keselowski last season in the dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Front Row Motorsports has signed Quincy Compressor, a Bay Minette, Ala.-based compressor manufacturer, as a sponsor for four races.

Quincy will sponsor Todd Gilliland‘s No. 38 team in three events and Michael McDowell‘s No. 34 team in one race.

 

 

Stewart-Haas Racing signs Chase Briscoe to contract extension

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Chase Briscoe has signed a multiyear contract extension to remain at Stewart-Haas Racing, the team announced Thursday.

The length of the deal was not announced.

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Briscoe is entering his third Cup season with the team. He won his first series race last year, taking the checkered flag at Phoenix last March. That victory put him in the playoffs. He finished the season ninth in the standings. 

“It’s huge to have stability, with my team and my partner,” Briscoe said in a statement from the team. “It just gives you more confidence. Stewart-Haas Racing is where I want to be for a long time. It’s the place I’ve known longer than anywhere else in my NASCAR career.

“I remember getting signed by Ford in 2017 and I told people, ‘You know, if I could pick one place to be, it would be Stewart- Haas Racing. And if I could drive one car, it would be the 14 car. That would be the ultimate dream.’ And now, here I am.

“SHR has such a great group of people, from the Xfinity Series to the Cup Series, and they’ve all just guided me in the right direction. From drivers to crew chiefs to crew members, they’ve always had my back, and that’s been a huge help – just having people believe in you.”

The 28-year-old Briscoe has been with SHR since 2018. He split a limited Xfinity schedule that season between what is now RFK Racing and SHR. He ran full time with SHR in the Xfinity Series in 2019 and ’20 before moving to Cup in 2021.

“Chase has made the most of every opportunity and the proof is in the results. Keeping him at SHR was a priority and we’re proud to have him in our racecars for many more years to come,” said Tony Stewart, who co-owns SHR with Haas Automation founder Gene Haas, in a statement from the team. 

Briscoe’s signing comes two weeks after teammate Kevin Harvick announced that this will be his final season in Cup. 

The Cup season begins Feb. 5 with the Busch Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before going to Daytona for the Feb. 19 Daytona 500.