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Daniel Hemric moves forward with new contract, but without key crew members in Xfinity playoffs

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CONCORD, North Carolina — It’s been an uneven week for Daniel Hemric.

The 26-year-old driver arrived at Charlotte Motor Speedway with a new contract with Richard Childress Racing, keeping him in the team’s No. 21 Chevrolet in the Xfinity Series next year.

But the rookie, one of 12 drivers in the Xfinity playoffs, also entered the 1.5-mile track without three key crew members who are suspended for the next four races.

Crew chief Danny Stockman Jr., car chief Clint Almquist and engineer Luke Mason were suspended after a piece of tungsten ballast fell off Hemric’s car on pit road at Dover.

They will not be eligible to return until the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The suspension comes with Hemric sitting fifth in the standings, 37 points above the first driver outside a transfer spot. The Round of 8 field will be decided by Saturday’s Drive for the Cure 300.

But Hemric believes his team will be unfazed by the suspensions due to RCR’s depth and experience. Randall Burnett, a former Cup crew chief, will serve as crew chief of the No. 21.

“Obviously, we accepted what happened,” Hemric said Friday. “We know it’s unacceptable and we’re not very proud of how it all went down on our end. But I talked about the depth of the company earlier and how we answer those calls, that depends on us. I feel solid with the group of guys we have to move forward with. I know Danny Stockman and my engineer back at the shop are still very, very, heavily involved in what’s going to happen at the race track, throughout the race weekends and know those guys have been a huge part of what’s gotten me into this situation we’re in.

“I know as a whole, RCR is rallying around myself and Brendan Gaughan here in the Xfinity Series to make sure that we have the best possible shop to run for the championship. We’re going to take what was given to us throughout the week (in) stride and feel like it’s not going affect us in any form of a negative way going forward.”

If Hemric falters and isn’t able to advance to the next round, he can be at ease knowing a disappointing end to the season won’t hurt his career prospects come February. Hemric and Matt Tifft were both announced as part of RCR’s Xfinity lineup for next season. 

“It’s obviously a very humbling situation to be a part of,” said Hemric, who is a native of nearby Kannapolis. “Just so pumped up to be part of Richard Childress Racing. … everybody knows we’re kind of in a rebuilding mode. I think we’ve done that all year on the Xfinity side. I know the Cup side’s doing the same thing.”

While RCR won two Cup races this year, the team’s five Xfinity cars have not won this season. The last year RCR did not win a Xfinity race was 2011, when it only made three starts with Tim George, Jr.

“I look forward to being able to stay with the progression of where the company’s going,” Hemric said. “Anytime you can be a part of that, it’s a very trying time because you can get down. But I think Richard Childress is a great leader, we’ve got a bunch of great leaders, a lot of depth in our company that’s allowed us to take these strides, staying together good or bad.”

Hemric has six top fives and 14 top 10s in 28 starts this season. He’s still looking for his first NASCAR victory after 49 starts in the Camping World Truck Series proved fruitless.

When RCR made its announcement regarding Hemric, it did not announce if Stockman would remain his crew chief next year.

“Danny Stockman has done an incredible job of not only assembling a race team from scratch, which is what we did over the offseason leading into this year,” Hemric said. “A group of guys that never really worked hand-in-hand together. What we did in such a short amount of time was pretty impressive from my side, on the outside looking in and being involved in it. I’m proud of that. We’ll get through the four-race suspension with those guys and kind of reevaluate everything over the offseason. That’s our time to figure out what’s best for my career and what’s best for the company moving forward.”

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NTSB releases final report on Dale Jr. plane crash

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Photo: Dustin Long
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Pilot error played a key role in the August 2019 crash of a plane carrying Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his family, a final report by the National Transportation Safety Board stated Wednesday.

Earnhardt, wife Amy and daughter Isla were on board the plane, which crashed after a hard landing at Elizabethton (Tennessee) Municipal Airport on Aug. 15, 2019. The report stated all three suffered minor injuries. 

The NTSB listed the probable causes of the accident as: “The pilot’s continuation of an unstabilized approach despite recognizing associated cues and the flight crew’s decision not to initiate a go-around before touchdown, which resulted in a bounced landing, a loss of airplane control, a landing gear collapse, and a runway excursion. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s failure to deploy the speedbrakes during the initial touchdown, which may have prevented the runway excursion, and the pilot’s attempt to go around after deployment of the thrust reversers.”

A “go-around” occurs when a pilot pulls out of a landing and gains altitude to make another landing attempt.

The report stated that “the flight crew made several comments about the airplane flying too fast and allowed the airspeed to increase well above the reference speed for the approach.”

The report stated that “the pilot did not extend the speedbrakes upon touchdown, which landing checklist required, but instead attempted to deploy the thrust reversers immediately after touchdown, which was a later item on the landing checklist.”

Earnhardt’s Cessna 680A Citation Latitude bounced twice upon landing as it traversed the 5,001-foot runaway.

After the fourth touchdown, the right main landing gear collapsed. The plane went off the road and through a 400-foot long area of grass. It went down an embankment, through a creek and a chain-link fence. It continued up an embankment. The plane came to rest about 600 feet beyond the runway at the edge of a four-lane highway.

The passengers and two pilots escaped as the plane burned.

The full report can be read here.

Champion or not, Chase Briscoe won’t let Xfinity title define season

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Like the 11 drivers he’ll compete against in the Xfinity Series playoffs, a championship is the endgame for Chase Briscoe.

However, with the Stewart-Haas Racing driver one win from matching his preseason goal of at least eight victories, Briscoe wouldn’t be too disappointed if he failed to claim the title at the end of the seven-race playoff.

“I feel like to this point if we don’t get to eight (wins) … I feel like I accomplished or proved what I was trying to say at the beginning of the year,” Briscoe told NBC Sports on Tuesday. “There’s still no reason why we can’t get to 10 wins. I feel 100% confident in my team that we’re going to have the cars capable of doing it, I just need to do my job. If we do that, hopefully we can get to Phoenix and then (whoever’s) the best team once we get there wins.”

As he prepares to open the playoffs Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN), Briscoe is wary of not letting “the championship define you and define your season. … Winning races is a big deal. That’s what you get paid to do is go win races and obviously win championships as well, but today’s format anything can happen in that final race.”

Briscoe can attest to importance of winning races. He enters the playoff with a series-leading seven wins, which has helped him start the postseason with 2,050 points and ties him with Austin Cindric.

Briscoe’s impressive numbers come a year after he had just one win in a season where Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer combined to win 21 of 33 races.

Briscoe believes the perception of his abilities as a driver are “way different” from last year as he struggled to chase those three drivers now competing in Cup.

“Personally, I felt like I could win races, and I think a lot of it was learning,” Briscoe said. “Last year, there were still a lot of tracks I had never been to before and didn’t even have 100 pavement starts in my entire career, and now I have that experience. I have the confidence to go with it and all of those things are totally different, and when I said what I said at the beginning of the year (about winning eight races) I felt like I was capable of doing that.

“If I could back it up, it would look even better. … I think I’ve proven my worth in this sport. I feel like if I do get the opportunity to move up, I feel like I’m ready, but I also feel like I could get a lot of benefit out of coming back to the Xfinity Series and running again.”

Briscoe, a Ford development driver, says he still doesn’t know what’s in store for him in 2021.

He said the uncertainty of his future is a “little bit easier” to handle compared to last year because of the wins he’s racked up.

Regardless of not knowing his NASCAR fate, if Briscoe can “somehow get to 10 wins this year and win the championship, then that would just make it, I feel like, a lot easier for the decision-makers.”

Mike Wallace’s appeal of indefinite suspension denied

NASCAR suspends Mike Wallace
Mike Wallace
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Mike Wallace‘s indefinite suspension by NASCAR was upheld by the National Motorsports Appeals Panel on Wednesday.

Wallace, who has made three Xfinity Series starts this season, was suspended Sept. 10 for violating Sections 12.1; 12.8; 12.8.1.e of the rule book.

According to the rulebook, a violation of section 12.8.1.e is any “Public statement and/or communication that criticizes, ridicules, or otherwise disparages another person based upon that person’s race, color, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, religion, age, or handicapping condition.”

As part of the suspension, Wallace is required by NASCAR to attend sensitivity training.

The three-member appeals panel was made up of Dixon Johnston, Bill Lester and Kevin Whitaker.

Wallace has the right to appeal the decision to the National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer.

Wallace wrote the following on Facebook shortly after his suspension was originally announced:

“You know as I fly across the United States today I’m ready various people’s political views and I have to say a famous four star Military General that I spent time with in the MidEast told me Mike let me give you some advice don’t ever get in a conversation about politics or religion unless you are really smart. I said why do you say that comment His response it’s like being balanced on a single edge razor blade if you slip you will get cut!

Think about that before we all make foolish uneducated post! Moral of this story is most of use just repeat what we have heard we really don’t know.
Have a great positive day!”

Bubba Wallace to receive Stan Musial award for extraordinary character

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Following months of speaking out in support of racial justice and inclusion in NASCAR, Bubba Wallace‘s work has been recognized by The Musial Awards.

The Richard Petty Motorsports driver has been selected as the recipient of its Award for Extraordinary Character.

The award honors “an individual who demonstrates remarkable poise, perseverance and overall sportsmanship.”

The Musial Awards – presented by Maryville University in St. Louis – is named after Stan Musial, a former St. Louis Cardinal baseball player. St. Louis is also the home to one of Wallace’s sponsors, World Wide Technology.

More: Michael Jordan excited for NASCAR future with Denny Hamlin

In the wake of the death of George Floyd in May, the 26-year-old Wallace has been active in helping lead NASCAR through social changes, including the banning of the Confederate flag at series events and tracks.

He also drove a Black Lives Matter car at Martinsville Speedway in June.

“Bubba Wallace exemplifies what the Stan Musial Award for Extraordinary Character is all about,” Frank Viverito, president of the St. Louis Sports Commission, which produces the Musial Awards, said in a press release. “He has overcome much to be where he is, and he has courageously stepped forward to take an important stand for change. He is most deserving of an award that stands for sportsmanship and character, and is named for Stan Musial, whose own actions promoted racial acceptance and unity.”

Wallace joins baseball legend Hank Aaron as a 2020 Musial Awards honoree. Aaron is receiving the Stan Musial Lifetime Achievement Award for Sportsmanship.

The Musial Awards will air nationally on CBS on Saturday, Dec. 26.

After three full-time seasons in Cup racing for RPM, it was announced earlier this week that Wallace would compete in 2021 for a Cup team co-owned by Denny Hamlin and basketball legend Michael Jordan.