Matt Tifft, Harrison Burton and Todd Gilliland highlight newest NASCAR Next class

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It’s time for a new NASCAR Next class to be introduced. Which means out with the young and in with the even younger.

On Tuesday, NASCAR announced the latest 11-member class that highlights exceptional rising talent in the world of stock car racing.

This year’s class includes the sons of Jeff Burton and David Gilliland, a driver from Israel and a former contestant on “Survivor.”

Here’s a rundown of the 2016-17 class of NASCAR Next.

Harrison Burton (@HBurtonRacing) – The 15-year-old from Huntersville, North Carolina, is the son of former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver and NASCAR on NBC analyst Jeff Burton. He has climbed to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, competing full-time in the West series, after setting the record last year as the youngest Division I race winner in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series history.

Collin Cabre (@CollinCabre12) – In his second season driving for Rev Racing and the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, the 22-year-old from Tampa, Florida, captured his first career win last October at Dover International Speedway after making the successful move from racing sprint cars.

Spencer Davis (@SpencerDavis_29) – The 17-year-old Dawsonville, Georgia, driver won the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award last season in the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour. Davis has transitioned to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East where he has established himself as a championship contender with top-six finishes in his first seven starts dating back to last season.

Alon Day (@Alon_Day) – One of two international drivers on the list, Day is the first NASCAR Whelen Euro Series driver to earn NASCAR Next recognition. Day, 24, from Ashdod, Israel, completed his first full season in the Whelen Euro Series as championship runner-up. Including the final two rounds of 2015, Day has won four of the last eight Elite 1 races.

Tyler Dippel (@Tyler_Dippel) – An accomplished dirt racer, the 16-year-old from Wallkill, New York,  scored his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series East victory in March at Mobile International Speedway. Dippel previously competed in the DIRTcar Racing Series in the Northeast, earning the Rookie of the Year title and becoming the youngest race winner in that series.

Todd Gilliland (@ToddGilliland_) – The son of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series veteran David Gilliland, the 16-year-old from Sherrills Ford, North Carolina, made NASCAR history by winning his first four career NASCAR K&N Pro Series starts. He became the youngest winner in series history with his victory last fall at Phoenix International Raceway and followed it up with wins in both the K&N Pro Series East and West season openers this year. He also won his first start in the ARCA series at Toledo Speedway.

Noah Gragson (@NoahGragson) – The 17-year-old from Las Vegas, Nevada, finished second in the championship standings last year in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, collecting the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award in the process. Gragson got his start racing in the Legends and Bandolero Divisions at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He earned a pair of K&N Pro Series West wins in 2015 and is again a championship contender, sitting sixth in the point standings. He is seventh in the East standings.

Gary Klutt (@Garyklutt) – The second Canadian to be named to the program and the first full-time driver from the NASCAR Pinty’s Series. The 23-year-old from Halton Hills, Ontario, earned his first career pole and win last year at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park en route to being named Rookie of the Year. He finished fifth in series points.

Julia Landauer (@julialandauer) – Landauer, 24, from New York City, got her start racing a variety of cars – from Formula BMW to Ford Focus Midgets to stock cars. Landauer was a contestant on the reality show ‘Survivor’ before graduating from Stanford in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Science, Technology, and Society. She became the first female to win a Limited Late Model division championship at Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Virginia, last year before graduating to the K&N Pro Series West this season. Like Nicole Behar last year, Landauer is the only female driver in the class.

Ty Majeski (@TyMajeski) – The 21-year-old from Seymour, Wisconsin, showcased his ability at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway in February, collecting three wins and earning the 2016 Super Late Model championship in the 50th Annual World Series of Stock Car Racing. Majeski added a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model track record and victory in the FrostBuster at Wisconsin’s LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway in April. Roush Fenway Racing announced Monday it had signed Majeski to a driver development deal.

Matt Tifft (@Matt_Tifft) – A development driver for Joe Gibbs Racing, the 19-year-old from Hinckley, Ohio, is driving part-time in the NASCAR XFINITY Series for JGL Racing as well as JGR, and racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for Red Horse Racing. He earned his first career pole in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Talladega Superspeedway earlier this month.

NASCAR America presents the Motorsports Hour, 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN

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This week’s episode of NASCAR America presents the Motorsports Hour airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Marty Snider, Danielle Trotta, Parker Kligerman and Steve Letarte will discuss multiple auto racing disciplines, including NASCAR and IndyCar.

If you can’t catch either of today’s shows on TV, watch online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. throws perfect strike for Red Sox

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With the Boston Red Sox nearly 10 games behind their No. 1 rivals, the American League East-leading New York Yankees, they could use some additional pitching help.

A good southpaw would be a big help.

They got some help on Wednesday – for one pitch at least, that is – as Cup Series driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. threw out the first pitch prior to the game vs. the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park.

Scouts likely had a few raised eyebrows when Stenhouse threw a perfect strike.

 

I’ve thrown out first pitches at some minor league games, but Fenway Park puts it at a whole ‘nother level,” Stenhouse told NESN.com.

But Stenhouse, wearing a No. 17 jersey, delivered when it was his turn atop the mound. In a sense, it was a home game for Stenhouse, as Red Sox owner John Henry is a part-owner of Roush Fenway Racing.

Stenhouse and teammate Ryan Newman, who was also in uniform for the game, were in Boston on their way to this weekend’s Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Stenhouse is currently 19th in the standings and with seven races left to make the playoffs, he knows how significant this weekend will be for him.

It’s very important,” Stenhouse told NESN. “New Hampshire could be one of those turning points. We’re 19th in points and need to get to 16th. Or we could win and just lock ourselves in that way, too.

Hopefully, we’ll have a fast enough car and play the right strategy to put ourselves in a position to win. These next few races are definitely critical to us to make sure we do our part. We’ll need somebody else to falter a little bit, but we’re going to go out and do our job and see how things play out.”

And if Stenhouse doesn’t make the playoffs, he might want to keep that pitching arm warm and loose, just in case the Red Sox really need him.

 

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Ryan Vargas set for Xfinity debut at Iowa Speedway

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Ryan Vargas, a member of the 2018-19 NASCAR Next class and 2019 Drive for Diversity program, is set to make his Xfinity Series debut next weekend at Iowa Speedway.

JD Motorsports announced Wednesday Vargas will drive its No. 15 Chevrolet in the July 27 U.S. Cellular 250, which will air on NBCSN.

Vargas, 18, competed full-time in the K&N Pro Series East last year for Rev Racing. Vargas was let go by Rev Racing in December and has spent this season racing late models and competing for the Irwindale Speedway track championship.

The race at Iowa will mark Vargas’ national NASCAR series debut. Vargas said making his Xfinity debut at Iowa “just makes sense” given his seventh-place finish there last year in the K&N Series.

“Last year, I felt that I was able to run my best race all year at the speedway, and to have the chance to drive for a well-respected team owner in Johnny Davis really adds to the excitement heading into the weekend,” Vargas said in a press release. “I think if we can keep all the fenders on my No. 15 Chevrolet and run as many laps as possible, the weekend will be a success. At this point in my career, I want to learn as much as I can so I can keep moving up the NASCAR ladder, so I am not necessarily worried about what the results show.”

Vargas will be sponsored by Cranio Care Bears, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness of Craniosynostosis, a condition that causes problems with a child’s brain and skull growth. Vargas underwent surgery when he was 11 months old to correct issues from it.

“It means a lot to me to be able to help bring awareness to this great charity in Cranio Care Bears through the sport that I love so much,” Vargas said. “I know that I will have a lot of little supporters cheering me on that look up to me as a role model in the Cranio community, and I want to show them that anything is possible, even with the condition.”

 

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Updated entry lists for NASCAR at New Hampshire

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The NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series will be in action this weekend at the 1-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H.

The Gander Outdoors Truck Series is off until July 27 at Pocono Raceway.

Here are the entry lists for the Cup and Xfinity races at New Hampshire:

Cup – Foxwoods Resort & Casino 301 (3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN)

There are 37 cars entered.

Quin Houff will be back in the No. 77 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet.

Andy Seuss is entered in Rick Ware Racing’s No. 51 Ford and will make his Cup debut. Austin Theriault will also make his Cup debut in Rick Ware Racing’s No. 52 Chevrolet.

Click here for the full entry list.

Xfinity — Roxor 200 (4 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN)

There are 41 cars entered.

Cup regular Paul Menard will be driving the No. 12 Team Penske Ford Mustang.

Ryan Truex will be making his third Xfinity start of the season in the No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet.

Tyler Matthews will make his third Xfinity start of 2019 in the No. 15 JD Motorsports Chevrolet.

Harrison Burton makes his third start of the season in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

Kaz Grala is entered in his fourth race of the year in Richard Childress Racing’s No. 21 Chevrolet.

Canadian driver Alex Labbe makes his third start of 2019 in the No. 90 DGM Racing Chevrolet.

CJ McLaughlin will make his Xfinity Series debut, driving the No. 93 RSS Racing Chevrolet.

Click here for the full entry list.