Dash 4 Cash drivers gear up for first battle for $100,000 at Bristol

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Burt Reynolds’ character, the Bandit, drove from Georgia to Texarkana and back again in 28 hours with 400 cases of Coors for very specific reasons in the 1977 film, Smokey and the Bandit.

“For the money, for the glory, and for the fun. Mostly for the money.”

And the prize money was only $80,000.

For the next four weeks, the Xfinity Series will give four different sets of drivers a chance at the money, the glory and the fun with the return of the Dash 4 Cash program.

The Money

Each week, beginning this Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway, four drivers will compete for $100,000. The competition continues at Richmond Raceway, Talladega Superspeedway and Dover International Speedway.

The Glory

Whoever finishes highest among the four drivers each week wins the money. That driver and the three drivers placing behind him advance to the next Dash 4 Cash round.

The Fun

For these four races, Cup Series drivers are not permitted to compete.

That means the money, the glory, the fun – and the race wins – will only be enjoyed by Xfinity drivers. Through six races, Xfinity regulars have won once, in the season-opener at Daytona.

The Drivers

As the highest finishing Xfinity regulars last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, Daniel Hemric, Christopher Bell, Ryan Preece and Cole Custer are the first set of four competing for $100,000.

Hemric, in his second full-time year with Richard Childress Racing, is the only of the four who participated in the Dash 4 Cash last year and won money. The 27-year-old driver won $100,000 at Bristol when it was the second stop among the Dash 4 Cash races.

“As young as we are we get to run for a hundred grand, there’s not a lot of people (who) can say that,” Hemric said after the Texas race. “Having the opportunity to taste that last year and experience that was really something that we definitely enjoyed and hopefully we can do that again next week.”

Hemric enters Bristol with two consecutive top fives, including placing third at Texas. His first two Xfinity starts at Bristol resulted in a top five and a top 10.

Cole Custer. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

Custer, 20, is also in his second full-time season and was part of the Dash 4 Cash last year at Bristol. Custer wrecked out of that race and finished 10th in the August Bristol race.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver enters the weekend coming off his first top five of the year, placing fourth in Texas.

“I think at the start of the year we had some speed, we just had some bad luck with things going wrong and getting in wrecks,” Custer said after the race. “As it went, we’ve cleaned ourselves up a little bit and haven’t had the bad luck. We’ve had fast cars, so I think we just have to get a little bit better and I think just have a really smooth and everything go right race and I think hopefully we can put that together next week.”

The other half of the four drivers are made up of Joe Gibbs Racing’s Bell and Preece.

Bell is in his first full-time season in Xfinity and Preece is competing part-time after a four-race tryout last season.

Preece has two starts at Bristol that came in 2015 when he competed with JD Motorsports in his only full-time Xfinity season.

He likely wouldn’t be in the position to race for $100,00 if not for two things – gambling on himself last season and the retirement of Carl Edwards.

“I think I’m pretty grateful for just having the opportunity,” Preece said. “Did I think this (would be possible) last January in 2017? Absolutely not. I fully intended on pretty much settling and racing modifieds for the rest of my life. When Carl Edwards retired and everything kind of shifted, I was like, ‘OK, there’s an opportunity here. I need to try and take advantage of this’ and it got me to those two races and I think you’ve seen how things have kind of taken off from there.”

Preece, 27, earned one win and four top fives in all of his starts with JGR last year. That resulted in 10 more races this season for the Connecticut native.

“Every time I show up to the race track, I’m almost treating it like it’s my last, even though I know I have 10 races right now,” Preece said. “Each one of these races could determine my future. That’s pretty much how I show up and that’s how I’m going to race.”

Ryan Preece. (Getty Images)

Preece said winning the $100,000 would help him finish building a race car.

Preece is well aware of the backgrounds of his Dash 4 Cash competitors entering the first short track race of the season.

“Daniel and I, he’s from late models, I actually raced Daniel in modifieds growing up quite a while ago,” Preece said. “So we’re kind of from the same old deal on the East Coast and then you got Bell, he’s a midget driver from out west and then you got Cole who is (from the) K&N (Pro Series) and all that. We’re all from the short tracks.”

How will these kindred spirits race each other for the money, the glory and the fun without those pesky Cup drivers getting in the way?

According to Bell, who has four top fives through six races, just like they would at “any rental go-kart track.”

“We’re going to run just as hard as we would for a Cup win,” Bell said. “We’re race car drivers. It doesn’t really matter what we’re racing for, we’re going to go give it our all no matter what.”

Hemric said  it’s “very humbling” knowing where his competitors come from.

“It’s just a nature of something that we’ve all been passionate about and love to do since a time we could remember,” Hemric said. “I think we all know each other’s stories pretty well. It’s pretty special to share a moment like that next week with these guys and look forward to battling to the end with them.”

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NASCAR will have choose rule for All-Star Race at Bristol

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Following support from drivers, NASCAR will allow competitors to choose which lane they want to restart in during the July 15 All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The choose rule designates a spot on the track where a driver must select if they wish to restart on the inside lane or outside lane. The choose rule also will be in place for the NASCAR Open.

NASCAR also announced the format for the NASCAR Open and All-Star Race.

In the NASCAR Open, which is for drivers who have not qualified for the All-Star Race:

  • Stage 1 will be 35 laps
  • Stage 2 will be 35 laps
  • The final stage will be 15 laps

The winner of each stage advances to the All-Star Race. After the NASCAR Open, the Fan Vote winner will be announced. That will go to the driver not yet qualified for the All-Star Race after competing in the NASCAR Open.

In the All-Star Race, the format will be:

  • Stage 1 will be 55 laps
  • Stage 2 will be 35 laps
  • Stage 3 will be 35 laps
  • The final stage will be 15 laps

Both green flag and yellow flag laps will count in the first three stages. Only green flag laps will count in the final stage. There will be an unlimited number of attempts at a green, white, checkered finish under green flag conditions.

NASCAR also stated that the car number will move from the door toward the rear wheel to give more exposure to the teams’ sponsors

The biggest change is the choose rule. At Bristol, the outside line is dominant on restarts. The leader chooses to restart on the outside line and the driver starting in the second row — in fourth place — often is second shortly after the restart because of the lane’s advantage. With the rule change, others would have the chance to start on the outside lane if they wanted.

“I see nothing bad that it can bring,” Joey Logano said of the chose rule concept in May. “It brings another strategy to the table, it’s definitely something to talk about. You don’t have luck becoming involved. …

“I tell you, if I see a bunch of 12-year-olds do it in the Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway, I’m pretty sure all of us could figure it out.”

Said Austin Dillon: “As a sport we’re always changing. We’ve done a really good job with the mile-and-a-half program and brought it back to life. I think the next thing is trying to make it better for the fans and create more drama than it already has.”

Some drivers have called for this type of rule to prevent the brake checking that takes place at the exit of pit road so a driver can be in an even-number position in the running order and restart on the outside lane.

“It takes out pit crew’s fast stops,” Dillon said. “Your pit crew could’ve gained a couple of spots there, but instead you’re giving up two spots because you’d rather start on the outside. That’s gotta stop. I think it’s gonna knock someone’s nose in at the end of pit road before too long, so that will end a guy’s race. I don’t feel like it is a hard thing to do.”

The All-Star Race was moved from Charlotte Motor Speedway to Bristol Motor Speedway because of the COVID-19 pandemic and North Carolina restrictions on mass gatherings. Bristol will be allowed to have up to 30,000 fans.

Drivers who have already clinched an All-Star Race spot: Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Justin Haley, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Erik Jones, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr.

 

Can anybody catch Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick?

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Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin.

Or is it Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick?

They’ve won four of the last six Cup races, including the past two, and came within a late caution flag of being the last two Brickyard 400 winners at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, site of Sunday’s race (4 p.m. ET on NBC).

MORE: Indianapolis weekend schedule

MORE: Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick 1-2 in Power Rankings

“For the most part, when we have had chances to win races, we have won them,” Harvick said. “I think Sunday (at Pocono) was probably the only one that I could point to and say that we had the car to win the race and didn’t win the race. I think for the majority of the races that we have had chances to win we have capitalized on those situations.”

That Pocono race Sunday? Harvick finished second to Hamlin, who has won two of the last four races.

“I would say specifically the last 10 to 11 (races) we’ve been exceptional, really since coming back from the break that we had,” Hamlin said. “I thought we’ve been really good.

“My team is really strong. They’re doing a lot of really good work at the race shop preparing our cars to be set up, optimized right from the first run of the day.

“Where we’re really struggling is not getting stage points. I think we’d be winning the regular season if we could get some. The way the races have played out, we’ve kind of made our bed to try to win the race because we’ve had race‑winning cars. I’ll definitely take race wins over stage wins, especially knowing that a race win counts for five (playoff points).”

Harvick enters Sunday’s race at Indy as the defending winner. He led 118 of 160 laps in last year’s race, winning by more than six seconds.

In 2018, Hamlin led at Indy when a caution with six laps to go took away his advantage. Brad Keselowski passed Hamlin coming to the white flag and won.

If not Harvick or Hamlin this weekend, Keselowski could be one to watch.

“My confidence level right now is very, very high that we can be a contender for the entire season and continue to build and get stronger,” said Keselowski, who has two wins and eight top-10 finishes since the season resumed in May. “Very, very pleased to see how the team has come together. … Now we’re starting to show a lot of speed. I don’t think we’ve reached our full potential.”

Even with Keselowski’s success, Harvick and Hamlin have been stout. This is how dominant Harvick and Hamlin have been all season and since May:

Most wins this year (15 races)

Most wins since season resumed (11 races)

  • Denny Hamlin (3 wins)
  •  Kevin Harvick (3 wins)
  • Brad Keselowski (2 wins)

Most top-five finishes this year (15 races)

Most top-five finishes since season resumed (11 races)

  • Denny Hamlin (8 top 5s)
  • Kevin Harvick (7 top 5s)
  • Chase Elliott (6 top 5s)
  • Ryan Blaney (6 top 5s)

Most top 10 finishes this season (15 races)

  • Kevin Harvick (12 top 10s)
  • Denny Hamlin (10 top 10s)
  • Brad Keselowski (10 top 10s)

Most top 10 finishes since season resumed (11 races)

  • Kevin Harvick (8 top 10s)
  • Denny Hamlin (8 top 10s)
  • Brad Keselowski (8 top 10s)
  • Martin Truex Jr. (8 top 10s)

Patriots of America PAC to be primary sponsor for Go Fas Racing in nine races

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Patriots of America, a political action committee supporting President Donald Trump’s re-election bid, will be the primary sponsor of Corey LaJoie’s car this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Go Fas Racing announced Wednesday.

Patriots of America PAC will be the primary sponsor on the car for eight additional races.  

“Our mission is to get voters registered and to the polls in November,” said Jeff Whaley on behalf of Patriots of America PAC. “We are excited about our sponsorship with Go Fas Racing No. 32 and Corey LaJoie. We feel this partnership is the best way to help us communicate this message to the NASCAR community and encourage all Americans to do their part by heading to the polls.”

Team owner Archie St. Hilaire said in a statement: “I am honored to be part of the President’s re-election campaign through the Patriots of America PAC. As a Trump 2020 supporter, this team will do everything possible to secure victory on and off the track electing President Donald Trump to a second term. Let us bring this country back and Keep America Great!”

According to public documents, Patriots of America has paid Go Fas Racing $350,000 to this point for the sponsorship.

Sunday’s Cup race airs at 4 p.m. ET on NBC.

NASCAR, Coca-Cola to honor military, frontline healthcare workers

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NASCAR will honor members of the U.S. Armed Forces and frontline healthcare workers throughout the month of July as part of this year’s expanded “NASCAR Salutes Refreshed by Coca-Cola” initiative.

Per a media release, NASCAR said the program will be “an industry-wide opportunity to recognize and thank those who have gone above and beyond to keep society safe and healthy.”

The kickoff event for the program begins with Sunday’s Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 at the Brickyard (4 p.m. ET on NBC, IMS Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), shifting to a mid-summer window due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We take pride in honoring all who work tirelessly to keep our nation safe, whether a frontline worker in the fight against COVID-19 or part of our U.S. Armed Forces protecting us around the world,” said Jill Gregory, executive vice president and chief marketing and content officer, NASCAR. “The NASCAR industry has always been passionate about saluting our nation’s heroes both past and present, and we once again look forward to recognizing those who serve.”

Per a statement in the media release, NASCAR and Coca-Cola will create content to honor the “heroic work from our military and first responder community during the COVID-19 pandemic. … Through NASCAR digital and social channels, the industry will spotlight even more stories with a new ‘NASCAR Salutes Refreshing Moments’ feature that will also be hosted on NASCAR.com/Salutes.”

“While this crisis has impacted everyone’s daily lives, we are able to race because of the selfless acts by our military community and frontline workers,” said John Mount, vice president, sports marketing and region assets, Coca-Cola North America. “NASCAR Salutes offers an impactful opportunity to showcase our pride and appreciation for these heroes and their families.”

In addition to premier partner Coca-Cola, several other NASCAR Official Partners will also take part in the program:

  • Mack Trucks will wrap its NASCAR Mack Anthem haulers with NASCAR Salutes-themed graphics voted on by fans at com/NASCARSalutes. The paint schemes honor both military and frontline heroes and the winning designs will be unveiled July 4 and debut during the NASCAR Salutes window.
  • AMR, the “Official Emergency Medical Services Partner of NASCAR,” will feature the NASCAR Salutes Refreshed by Coca-Cola branding on its NASCAR safety trucks and safety team helmets throughout the program.
  • Goodyear continued its tradition of replacing the iconic “Eagle” sidewall for 600 Miles of Remembrance at Charlotte Motor Speedway. This year’s recognition was the Honor and Remember organization, which works closely with the industry to honor gold star families who have lost family members while serving.
  • Mack Trucks and Blue-Emu also collaborated on a day-long effort to thank truckers and critical workers for their hard work during COVID-19. After a kickoff at Mack Trucks’ headquarters, NASCAR’s Mack Anthem haulers visited Virginia-based Sovah Health to thank the frontline workers at the hospital en route to the NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway.

Fans can learn more about the heroes honored throughout the NASCAR Salutes Refreshed by Coca-Colaprogram by visiting NASCAR.com/Salutes.