ARCA Racing Series

Xfinity Series Spotlight: Ty Majeski, the driver Mark Martin calls ‘the one’

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CONORD, N.C. — Ty Majeski‘s first NASCAR start isn’t for another two days, but Roush Fenway Racing already is commemorating the event.

In one portion of the museum and gift shop at the team’s headquarters hangs a shirt produced specifically for the 22-year-old driver’s debut in the Xfinity Series at Iowa Speedway.

Photo by Daniel McFadin

“I think Roush Fenway decided to do it,” Majeski told NBC Sports sitting in an office at the team’s headquarters. “I think they ordered 144 shirts. They were sold within an hour and half. I don’t think they understood what kind of following I have up in the Midwest.

“But once we posted it on our Facebook page it was, ‘Boom!’ And they ordered another 144, and I think it was a day, boom, they were gone again. Now they’re coming out with a ladies line of the same design. They’re selling like crazy.”

The shirt sits around the corner from one that honors Mark Martin‘s Hall of Fame induction in January. Majeski will be driving a Ford with the No. 60, the same numeral Martin drove to victory lane 39 times in the Xfinity Series.

In a prerace news release, Martin gave the native of Seymour, Wisconsin, all the praise one could hope for.

“With Ty Majeksi, I think Roush Fenway may have the one,” Martin said. “I think he is Roush Fenway’s next Matt Kenseth or Carl Edwards. I think they are sitting good with him as a young driver developing. I’ll be watching with great interest.”

More than a month before his Xfinity debut, Majeski and Martin bonded on Twitter over their shared experience of winning a race at Rockford Speedway in Illinois.

A week before his Xfinity debut, he notched his series-record 17th win in the ARCA Midwest Tour, where Majeski also has won three straight titles. He did that in a car sponsored by iRacing, Majeski is the top-ranked driver on the racing simulator, having won more than 830 races in 1,112 starts. iRacing will be on his car for both Iowa races this year.

The following Q&A has been edited and condensed.

NBC Sports: What was the experience like getting into the Xfinity car for the first time (in a test at Iowa)?

Majeski: Obviously, it’s critical now that NASCAR puts such a limit on NASCAR testing as a whole. So any time a team can get a test is critical, for both the driver and the team. I adapted pretty quickly to the race track, to the Xfinity car. I did a lot of iRacing. So it didn’t take me too long to adapt to it, and I think the second or third run, we were already making adjustments on the car, trying to make it better and make the team better. I think it was critical to use our time to continue to improve the race car and not just me adapting to everything.

NBC Sports: What was it like for you when you saw the painted car for the first time?

Majeski: It was really cool. That’s kind of when it became real for me. Seeing it in the shop, seeing my name on it. Seeing all the guys working on it. I’m like, ‘Man, this is actually happening.’ Obviously, it’s something I’ve been working towards my whole career since I’ve been racing go-karts at 9 years old. This is what I wanted to do. Didn’t become I guess even feasible until just a few years ago. Before, it wasn’t just a hobby, but it just wasn’t realistic at that time. We started winning late model races, big late model races all over the country and it became a reality.

NBC Sports: You’re going to be working with (crew chief) Seth Harbour this weekend. When did you first get to interact with him getting ready for this?

Majeski: I do a lot of shocks for Bubba Wallace in the shop. I do a lot of work in the shop every day. I go to the racetrack with them when I can when I’m not racing my late model or don’t have other obligations to do. So I travel with him. The first time I really worked with them was at Las Vegas this year with Bubba Wallace. … I got to work with Seth and see how he acts and how he communicates with his drivers. I think that was big. Have somewhat of an idea going into the debut.

NBC Sports: Why the shock area, is that a specialty for you?

Majeski: No, it’s not a specialty for me. I actually had never saw the inside of a shock before I started working. I have some sense of what they do. I know what the adjustments do and I know what I need and I know what they feel like when you do a certain adjustment, but I never knew what the inside of one looked like. The reason we chose the shock department is because it gives me a wide range of, I guess, experiences.

NBC Sports: So when you’re getting to know Seth, what are you working on communication wise to know what you like, what he likes? How do you get your verbiage down for when you’re in the car?

Majeski: I think a big thing was having my crew chief Toby Nuttleman down at the test. I’ve been working with him; he’s the crew chief I’ve had most of my successes with. I’ve been with him the last, this will be the fourth full season now. He came down to the test, he can tell by the tone of my voice on how big of an adjustment he needs to change, just on how I react, what I’m saying. That just comes with time. He was able to translate a lot of that to Seth at the test. It definitely helps for sure.

NBC Sports: Will this be the longest race you’ve ever been in?

Majeski: Mileage-wise, yes. But I’ve done 300-lappers before in the late models, which at least at Iowa, you have some straightaways you can rest. I can argue that a 300-lap race at Pensacola for the Snowball Derby’s going to do more wear and tear on you than a mile racetrack. Mileage-wise, it’ll be my longest race, but I’ll be all right.

NBC Sports: Who all is going to be at the race this Saturday?

Majeski: A lot of people. My whole late model team is going to be there. Tons of friends and family. I know there’s buses going down from Wisconsin. There’ll be a lot of Ty Majeski fans there for sure.

NBC Sports: You’re from Seymour, Wisconsin.What’s the coolest thing about Seymour?

Majeski: The first hamburger was made in Seymour, ever. Seymour is the home of the hamburger. 

NBC Sports: What’s the best burger joint in Seymour?

Majeski: You know that’s the funny part. There isn’t a burger joint in Seymour. There’s a McDonald’s. There’s a Dairy Queen. But there’s no burger joint. Can’t believe it.

NBC Sports: Do you remember the first NASCAR race you ever attended?

Majeski: Yeah, I was probably 8 or 9 years old, and it was at Bristol. I always wore, obviously I’m about 5-4, and I was always one of the faster runners growing up, and they always had shirts that said ‘I’m short and fast like Bristol.’ I would always wear those shirts to school and stuff. I thought it fit well.

NBC Sports: What do you remember about that race?

Majeski: I remember it was a Cup race and there was this Dale Jr. fan next to us, and she had little No. 8’s painted on her finger nails. Every single lap, 500 laps, she would wave them this way (motions to himself), and as he would go past the corner, she’s wave them back that way. Five-hundred times, every single lap. I’ll never forget it.

NBC Sports: What’s your favorite phone app to use that’s not social media?

Majeski: Probably Uber. I’m flying all over the place. I don’t have any games on my phone. I don’t have any music on my phone. Pretty simple guy. Other than social media, probably Uber gets used the most or The Weather Channel to see if it’s going to rain on race weekend.

NBC Sports: What’s the weirdest experience you’ve had in an Uber?

Majeski: I haven’t had any weird experiences. I’ve had silence for the whole drive. But I haven’t hadn’t any super weird experiences, which is good. Knock on wood.

Previous Xfinity Spotlights

Justin Allgaier

Darrell Wallace Jr.

Michael Annett

Ryan Reed

Brandon Jones

Daniel Hemric

William Byron

Spencer Gallagher

Cole Custer

Ross Chastain

Elliott Sadler

Ben Kennedy

Blake Koch

Brennan Poole

Matt Tifft

Tyler Reddick

Kyle Benjamin

and on Facebook

NASCAR America: Dale Jr. Download with Mike Helton, 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN

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On today’s Dale Jr. Download, which runs from 5 to 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN, Dale Earnhardt Jr. welcomes NASCAR vice chairman Mike Helton.

Earnhardt has known Helton his whole life, and while the two consider each other good friends, Junior told one story where that friendship was tested a bit. 

Here’s a brief segment of what Junior had to say about Helton:

You can be an incredible friend, but the funny thing is when you need to chew somebody’s ass, you can get that done, too. There was one time you had to get after me pretty hard at Bristol Motor Speedway. … We had a car explode a brake rotor on the race track and threw brake parts all over the place.

There was about 15 laps to go and we were running under caution. Typically, NASCAR red flags the race and I was wanting them to do that, but they didn’t. I don’t see the brake stuff, everything’s great, I’m raising hell. This was in the Bud days. Tony (Eury) Sr. was on the radio and I think he was encouraging me a little bit. Our spotter came over and said they want you and Tony Sr. to come to the truck after the race. I stopped talking immediately.

That’s when I learned that Mike Helton and the guys in the booth listen to the drivers and I was thinking, ‘Oh, man, they heard me.’ … We go up in the hauler and me and Tony Sr. still feel like we’re in the right and that we’re going to tell ‘em this and tell ‘em that, and that we’re going in there thinking we’re going to tell Helton and he’s going to say ‘you’re right, we should have red-flagged the race.’

As soon as Helton’s head comes into the door jamb, Tony Sr. and I both started pleading our case. And Mike Helton said, ‘Both of y’all hush. Y’all aren’t going to talk, I’m going to talk.’ You were so mad, so angry, and when I realized how mad you were, I was so disappointed in myself for disappointing and angering him. … I realized now what I had done.’”

Tune in to hear the rest of the story on the Dale Jr. Download (the above portion starts around 51:00).

And then stick around for the following show, IndyCar Live, from Indianapolis Motor Speedway from 6-6:30 pm ET with Kevin Lee.

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.

Missouri’s Lucas Oil Speedway heavily damaged by possible tornado

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Severe storms barreled through south central Missouri on Monday night, causing a number of injuries and heavy damage to the area, including significant damage to Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Missouri, about two hours southeast of Kansas City.

According to a media release from track officials, “The storm moved into the area shortly before midnight and damaged several buildings, destroyed the grandstands at the off-road track and also damaged some of the grandstands at the dirt track. There also was damage in the campground and debris was scattered throughout the facility. Several vehicles on-site were toppled, including some campers that had arrived for the weekend.”

There were several injuries reported at the RV park located nearby. Investigators were trying to determine if the storm actually spawned a tornado that caused the damage.

The storms left the track without power and forced officials to cancel this weekend’s Lucas Oil Show-Me 100, one of the its biggest races of the year.

Lucas Oil Speedway general manager Danny Lorton said in the media release that this weekend’s racing – which is considered part of the “Crown Jewel of dirt Late Models” – would be rescheduled at a future date. Lorton said the earliest some announcement may be made is Tuesday.

Also in the media release, track racing operations director Dan Robinson noted, “Our first thoughts are for the people of the Wheatland community and the area and we are thankful that there were no fatalities. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all who were affected.”

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. opens up on why he hid his smoking and how he quit

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For the first 15 years or so of his high-profile NASCAR career, Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a secret that he kept from fans, media and sponsors.

But most importantly he kept it from his father.

There had been times that Dale Earnhardt had entered his son’s house unannounced and seen the ashtrays full of cigarette butts.

And while his mother, uncle and grandparents also indulged in smoking, Earnhardt’s seven-time champion father didn’t, nor did he approve of it.

“When I was a kid, everyone seemed to be smoking except for dad for whatever reason. He just never did,” Earnhardt Jr. told NBCSports.com in a phone interview Tuesday morning during a round of media appearances in which he spoke about his former habit in-depth publicly for the first time. “He knew I did, and I never, ever would have let him see me holding a cigarette. He hated it. We never had a conversation about it. He might have said a few times, ‘You need to effing quit that.’ Or something like that real short.

“I know that was something that extremely disappointed him.”

Ultimately, it was another family member who helped Earnhardt Jr. snap the habit about eight years ago.

Earnhardt’s wife, Amy, put up with his smoking the first few months after they began dating.

“I was trying to quit and tried a couple of times and failed, and it was so disappointing for her,” he said. “Eventually she said to me, ‘Look man, are you really going to get this done? Are you really going to eventually quit?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know if I can.’ And she goes well, ‘Honestly, that could be a dealbreaker for me.’ And I said, ‘Damn, really?’

“She said, ‘Yeah, if you’re not sure, and this is something that is going to be part of our relationship going forward, I just don’t know. So that was a tough conversation that had to be had, and I finally figured out how to get it out of my system when I truly wanted to quit. You have to have that conviction to do it, but it was really, really hard.”

Earnhardt, who just launched a video campaign with Nicorette to help promote its new coated ice mint lozenge that helps smokers quit, said he wanted to help be a coach on the journey for other people trying to quit.

“I figured it wasn’t a super-duper secret that I was a smoker, but maybe it might be worth exposing that little lie and secret to see if I can convince other people to quit because honestly, once I decided to quit, I didn’t realize all the things that smoking was affecting in my life,” he said. “And I was super insecure about it.

“Obviously I didn’t want anybody to know about it, but I worried about whether my car smelled, my clothes smelled, my breath smelled, and then I worried about my long-term health. I had a doctor that’s pretty straightforward, and he’s hammering on me all the time that, ‘Like, dude, you’ve got to quit.’ I seemed to get a lot of sore throats and a lot of colds more frequently than other people that weren’t smokers.

In addition to feeling much healthier, Earnhardt said it changed him for the better socially as well.

“I realized how much control (smoking) had over me,” said the NASCAR on NBC analyst, who also has been open about the impact Amy and Steve Letarte had on him getting out more. “The decisions I made every day were based around smoking. It sort of encouraged that hermit mentality that I had before me and Amy met. Where I wouldn’t go anywhere, do anything. You wouldn’t hardly see me leave the bus on a race weekend. I would shorten visits with family on holidays and just avoid activity.

“I’d just sit in the house and play video games because I could smoke. Then I realized once I got done how much that was dictating my day and predicting the choices I made every day. It was all based around my habit of smoking, and that’s pretty stupid, but it’s true.”

Earnhardt said he picked up smoking in his early 20s, just before he began running in the Xfinity Series, while being around friends who did it.

He hid the vice in public because of the worries about his persona (which already had been associated in his youth with wild partying at the “Club E” makeshift nightclub in his basement). While NASCAR also was affiliated with tobacco through having R.J. Reynolds as the title sponsor of its top series for more than 30 years, Earnhardt said there was a “negative stigma that was building” about smoking when he took it up.

“It wasn’t popular, cool or trendy,” he said. “I wasn’t so much worried about sponsors as just worried about disappointing people. I just tried not to really push it in front of anyone’s face. I wouldn’t walk up and down pit road holding a cigarette. I just thought that would be a mess.

“People would be like, ‘What the hell are you doing? Get your head on straight. You’re supposed to be this race car driver,’ and I already had people questioning my focus and my determination. If I’m walking around smoking a cigarette on Saturday between practices, I’m sure that was going to just feed into that.”

Goodyear tire info for Charlotte

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NASCAR returns for its second consecutive weekend of racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway with Saturday afternoon’s Alsco 300 Xfinity race and Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600, the longest race in NASCAR.

According to this week’s Goodyear media release, “Monster Energy NASCAR Cup teams will be running the same tire set-up for the Coca-Cola 600 that they ran during All-Star weekend at Charlotte. Based on the racing last weekend, tires will be a factor. First, All-Star teams that took four tires overcame the track position of those that did not. Second, with 12 race sets of tires for NASCAR’s longest race, the pit crews will play a big part in a team’s success, and those that master all those four-tire pit stops will help their car gain valuable spots on pit road.”

Added Greg Stucker, Goodyear director of racing, “The Coca-Cola 600 is the longest race on the schedule and it is held on one of the more temperature sensitive tracks upon which we compete, as the race starts in daylight and ends at night. We saw that fresh tires mattered last weekend during the All-Star race. Four tire pit stops should be the order of the day and teams have 12 sets of tires for the 400-lap race, so the team aspect of the sport will be on full display as the pit crews will be kept busy all night.”

According to the Goodyear media release, "Goodyear will debut a special “Honor and Remember” sidewall at Charlotte: Since 2010, for one weekend per NASCAR season, Goodyear has changed the branding on the sidewall of its racing tires in a show of support for the United States military and fallen heroes. This being the 10th year of that program, the official tire supplier to NASCAR’s top three series will work with a new organization and replace the standard “Eagle” with “Honor and Remember” for both the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and NASCAR Xfinity Series races.

"Honor and Remember is a national organization based out of Virginia that has a mission to “perpetually recognize the sacrifice of America’s military fallen service members and their families,” according to its website. The organization recognizes fallen military personnel from all wars or conflicts, and with those from all branches of service. They do so primarily by dedicating the specially designed Honor and Remember flag, which is intended to fly continuously as a tangible and visible reminder to all Americans of the lives lost in defense of our national freedoms."

NOTES – Cup cars on same tire set-up as All-Star weekend: Teams in both the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series will run the same tire set-up at Charlotte this week . . . this is the same combination of left- and right-side tires that Cup teams ran during All-Star weekend last week . . . for the Cup cars, this is the same right-side tire code they ran in last year’s Coca-Cola 600 and the same left-side tire they have run the last three weeks – Dover, Kansas and All-Star . . . for the Xfinity cars, this is the same right-side tire they ran on the Charlotte oval in 2018, combined with their 2019 Dover left-side tire . . . compared to what was run at Charlotte last year, this left-side features a construction update to align it with what is run at other speedways . . . this tire set-up came out of a test on the 2019 rules package that was run at Charlotte last October . . . teams (drivers) participating in that test were Richard Childress Racing (Daniel Hemric), Joe Gibbs Racing (Erik Jones), Hendrick Motorsports (William Byron) and Stewart-Haas Racing (Aric Almirola) . . . as on all NASCAR ovals greater than one mile in length, teams are required to run inner liners in all four tire positions at Charlotte . . . air pressure in those inner liners should be 12-25 psi greater than that of the outer tire.

Here’s the tire info for this weekend’s races:

Tire: Goodyear “Honor and Remember” Speedway Radials for both Cup and Xfinity

Set limits: Cup: 3 sets for practice, 1 set for qualifying and 12 sets for the race; Xfinity: 7 sets for the event

Tire Codes: Left-side -- D-4868; Right-side – D-4736

Tire Circumference: Left-side -- 2,227 mm (87.68 in.); Right-side -- 2,251 mm (88.62 in.)

Minimum Recommended Inflation: Left Front -- 19 psi; Left Rear -- 19 psi; Right Front -- 52 psi; Right Rear -- 50 psi

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