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.

Sam Bass, famed paint scheme and race program designer, dies

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Sam Bass, the artist known for designing many iconic NASCAR paint schemes and race programs, died Saturday.

His wife Denise confirmed Bass’ passing on Twitter. He was 57.

Bass, who designed Jeff Gordon’s striking “Rainbow Warriors” paint scheme, had spent the last few years looking for a new kidney. That was a result of a sepsis infection that originated in a blister on his left foot in 2005 and led to a below-the-knee amputation in 2008. Bass also had Type 1 diabetes, which he was diagnosed with at the age of 29.

Bass was inspired to become a NASCAR artist when he was 7 after attending his first race at Southside Speedway in suburban Richmond, Virginia.

“I was so amazed that night not only by the excitement and watching those cars run around and beat and bang on each other, but also the color – how all the cars were painted so many different colors,” Bass told NBC Sports in 2017. “I was like, ‘How cool is this?’ I couldn’t wait to get home to pull out my markers.”

The first car Bass designed was Bobby Allison’s Miller High Life car in 1988. That car went on to win the Daytona 500.

He went on to design the first Cup schemes for Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Bass first designed a race program for the 1985 World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He designed programs for it and other Speedway Motorsports, Inc. tracks through 2018.

Marcus Smith, the CEO and President of SMI, issued the following statement.

“Our deepest sympathies are with Denise and her family today. Sam Bass has been a significant part of NASCAR’s history. He poured his heart, soul and talent into producing souvenir program covers at many speedways including Charlotte for more than 30 years. His work provided our fans a keepsake to treasure, and that was so appropriate, because Sam was always such a fan of our sport and he was such a treasure to the entire NASCAR family. His body of work will be a legacy that lives forever. We will miss Sam’s smile and positivity.”

NASCAR issued the following statement.

“Though he may have never turned a lap or a wrench, few captured the essence of our sport through his work more than Sam Bass. He was a consistent presence in the NASCAR garage, and his ever-present smile and endearing personality welcomed all. Though we have lost a member of the NASCAR family, his legend will continue in his art – all of which illustrated the greatness of our sport and the talent of a true friend.”

Michael McDowell leads final Daytona 500 practice

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Front Row Motorsport’s Michael McDowell was fastest in the final practice session for Sunday’s Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET on Fox).

McDowell and his No. 34 Ford recorded nine laps and a top speed of 191.440 mph.

The top five was completed by Ty Dillon (191.432 mph), pole-sitter William Byron (191.339), Alex Bowman (191.278) and Daniel Hemric (190.921).

Only 20 cars made at least one lap in the session.

Kurt Busch recorded the most laps in the session with 16 and was 11th on the speed chart at 189.741 mph.

Of four drivers to make a 10-lap run, Bowman had the best average at 190.334 mph.

There were no incidents in the session.

Click here for the practice report.

Jeffrey Earnhardt honors grandfather Dale Earnhardt with helmet design

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Xfinity Series driver Jeffrey Earnhardt is honoring the “GOAT” in his family with a helmet he’s debuting this weekend at Daytona International Speedway.

The “GOAT” – or “Greatest of All-Time” – is his grandfather, NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt.

The helmet, which you can see below, bears an image of the seven-time Cup champion riding a horse while shirtless and wearing a cowboy hat.

Next to the image is the text, “Just a goat on his horse!”

Earnhardt will have the helmet today as he starts on the front row of the Xfinity Series season opener (2:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1).

It is the first of nine Xfinity races he’ll start for Joe Gibbs Racing this season.

MORE: Jeffrey Earnhardt ready for challenge of winning in Xfinity

Today’s Xfinity race at Daytona: Start time, lineup and more

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The NASCAR Xfinity Series kicks off the 2019 season today with the NASCAR Racing Experience 300 at Daytona International Speedway.

The 38-car field will feature defending series champion Tyler Reddick, who seeks to become the first driver to defend his Xfinity championship since Ricky Stenhouse Jr., won in 2011 and repeated in 2012.

Here’s how today’s pre-race schedule looks:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given by Drew Patey, VIP Partner of the NASCAR Racing Experience, at 2:37 p.m. The green flag is scheduled for 2:49 p.m.

PRERACE CEREMONIES: Driver introductions begin at 2:10 p.m. The invocation will be given at 2:30 p.m. by Sonny Gallman, Pastor of Central Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Florida. The National Anthem will be at 2:31 p.m. and sung by Gina Marie Incandela.

DISTANCE: The race is 120 laps (300 miles) around the 2.5-mile track.

TV/RADIO: Fox Sports 1 will broadcast the race. Coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. Motor Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 2 p.m. and also can be heard at MRN.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry MRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for cloudy skies with a high of 74 degrees and a zero percent chance of rain for the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Tyler Reddick won last year’s season-opening race. He started 11th and led 11 laps en route to the victory.

TO THE REAR: Pole-sitter Tyler Reddick will start from the rear after changing a tire with an air leak. Max Tullman also will start from the rear for a tire change. Jeremy Clements, unapproved adjustments.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the starting lineup.