Social Roundup: A very NASCAR Halloween

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The spookiest day of the year is here with Halloween.

NASCAR drivers and their families are breaking out the costumes, candy and pumpkins.

Thanks to social media, here’s a look at how the NASCAR community is getting the most out of it.

Kyle Busch

Elliott Sadler

Daniel Suarez

Ryan Blaney

Jimmie Johnson

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Who’s ready for Halloween?

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Happy Halloween!

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Jeff Gordon

Aric Almirola

Clint and Lorra Bowyer

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Halloween part 2!

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Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Joey Logano

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Happy Halloween🎃

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Rodney Childers

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🎃🎃Carving complete! 👍🏼👍🏼

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Rico Abreu

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Even clowns drive their grandmas cool hot rod! 🤡

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Matt Crafton

Trevor Bayne

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🎃

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Check back for more.

A.J. Allmendinger joins Kaulig Racing for multiple Xfinity races

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A.J. Allmendinger will return to NASCAR competition this year in multiple Xfinity Series races for Kaulig Racing, the team announced Thursday.

Allmendinger, who serves as an analyst for NBC Sports’ motorsports coverage, will drive the No. 10 Chevrolet in an undisclosed amount of races. Kaulig Racing fields Justin Haley full-time in the No. 11 Chevrolet.

Allmendinger joins a growing list of drivers who are scheduled to pilot the No. 10 this year, including Ross Chastain, Austin Dillon and Elliott Sadler.

“I am excited for the opportunity to hop back into a Xfinity Series car,” Allmendinger said in a press release. “I look forward to helping Kaulig Racing build their program, as well as fight for wins with them.”

Allmendinger has one win and 11 top-five finishes in Cup and two Xfinity wins. All three wins were on road courses.

Allmendinger last made laps in NASCAR in the 2018 Cup finale in Miami. He also competed in the Rolex 24 at Daytona earlier this year.

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: The Motorsports Hour

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America’s The Motorsports Hour airs from 5-6 p.m. ET and will cover multiple forms of auto racing, including NASCAR, IndyCar and more.

Krista Voda hosts with Parker Kligerman and AJ Allmendinger. Our special guest will be American Flat Track racer Briar Bauman.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it 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.

Meet the No. 1 draft picks in the NASCAR Heat Pro League

Greg Matarazzo
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NASCAR’s race weekend in Phoenix earlier this month was one of many firsts for Slade Gravitt.

It marked the first time the 16-year-old had ever visited a state that didn’t border Georgia. It was also the first time he ever set foot on an airplane.

On March 9, the native of Cumming, Georgia, flew to west to Arizona for where another first was awaiting him: Wood Brothers Racing would select him No. 1 among PlayStation 4 users in the first NASCAR Heat Pro League draft.

“It was a very interesting week because I started off Sunday, Monday questioning if I even had an opportunity or a chance to get drafted,” Gravitt told NBC Sports. “I saw myself as a top-10 driver. I was doing a good bit on social media. I thought I was getting drafted but there’s (what) teams prefer and we didn’t really know what the teams preferred at the moment.”

For the Wood Brothers, they preferred Gravitt’s youth and his “marketability” combined with his ability in the game.

“Then we got a couple of text messages from people at 704 (Games, the producer of the NASCAR Heat series) and people at Wood Brothers saying, ‘Hey, we’re drafting the No. 1 draft pick and flying them down to Phoenix at ISM Raceway,'” Gravitt said.

While it was his first time leaving the Southeast, it wasn’t Gravitt’s first time to attend a NASCAR event, having been to races at Talladega, Charlotte and Atlanta.

Gravitt was raised in a home of NASCAR fans 15 minutes from Bill and Chase Elliott‘s hometown of Dawsonville. His parents, Dana and Michael, were fans of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Chase Elliott, while his grandfather cheered on Dale Earnhardt Sr.

“My parents, they’re pretty supportive of it,” Gravitt said. “My dad was in the background a good bit of the Pro League draft stream. He loves it, honestly. He’s always telling me, ‘Hey, look at this article’ and stuff like that.”

Even before the Pro League was announced last year, Gravitt was an avid player of NASCAR games. He was also part of a gaming league called The Midnight Broadcasting Network, which streams their races and other games online. Seven members of that group, including Gravitt, were selected in the draft.

But Gravitt was the only one who was drafted in person and got to mingle with the likes of Richard Petty, Austin Dillon and Paul Menard.

“I’m still trying to relive what happened, cause it all went by so fast,” Gravitt said.

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Greg Matarazzo’s journey to being the No. 1 Xbox One player drafted by Chip Ganassi Racing was very different.

Matarazzo, 24, grew up in Bridgewater, New Jersey, far from any NASCAR landmark and with parents and friends who didn’t particularly care about auto racing.

He was turned onto NASCAR through the video games “NASCAR Thunder 2003” and “NASCAR: Dirt to Daytona.”

From 7 to 17, he raced himself, competing in go-karts on the grounds of the Somerset County 4H Fair, even earning some trophies in a go-kart with a No. 97 on it inspired by Kurt Busch. But that’s as far as his racing career went.

“It wasn’t really a racing state,” Matarazzo told NBC Sports. “It just wasn’t really something super accessible. … It was just kind of something I enjoyed on my own. My parents weren’t really into racing. We weren’t in the position to start-up a race team and start traveling on the weekends to tracks hours away.”

After high school he started his own clothing brand, Burassi, founded on a batch of 175 shirts he bought with money saved from a job at a pizzeria. In September 2017 he swapped coasts, moving to Los Angeles to operate Burassi full-time.

“The name Burassi is just a made up word,” Matarazzo said. “That’s kind of what the whole brand is about, just creating something out of nothing. I’ve always had an optimistic and creative mindset and perspective on life. I was just like, this is something I like to do so let me just see where it takes me. Seven years later, I’m out here in LA operating from my apartment.”

It was in that apartment on his Xbox where the door was re-opened on Matarazzo’s chances of being part of NASCAR.

“Actually, I’ve been a PlayStation guy my entire life,” Matarazzo said. “But I ended up getting a Xbox literally just so I could play against my roommate on Fortnite so we could play on the same team.”

As soon as Matarazzo saw the announcement for the esports league in December, he realized “this is my shot.

“I had to hop right on there and start qualifying.”

The second domino that led to him being drafted – after getting a Xbox – had fallen a month earlier.

“I got my foot in the door with Elijah,” said Matarazzo, referring to Elijah Burke, a Business Intelligence Coordinator at Chip Ganassi Racing. “I unknowingly hopped in one of his stream races. I guess he saw my username, ‘skrrtBusch’ and he was just like, ‘Yo, that’s a genius name, that’s crazy.'”

After being alerted by another user, Matarazzo did a Twitter search for his username and found a tweet by Burke:

“I sent him a DM (direct message) and we started chatting, and then that kind of had my foot in the door at CGR, and then we kept in touch throughout the whole qualifying process,” Matarazzo said. “I guess I proved myself to them and they ended up drafting me. It’s crazy how if I had never gotten an Xbox none of that would have happened. A little bit of luck and being in the right place at the right time.”

It led to Matarazzo being introduced at the draft by his childhood hero, who had defined his racing career in reality and online.

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What are Gravitt and Matarazzo hoping to get out of the Pro League?

Gravitt has aspirations about someday working in broadcasting or being a chef.

But what if the Pro League and esports in general turns out to be a long-term commitment?

“Of course I’ve thought about that, what my future can be in this being my age,” said Gravitt, who is a junior in high school. “When it started, I just wanted to have some fun with friends and put on a show in a professional manner. … I’m starting to realize my age and skill level could lead to something bigger. I haven’t really thought about an exact answer to that. Best I could say is more opportunities are in my way than someone than who is in their early 20, late 30s.”

While Matarazzo hopes to promote his brand and NASCAR’s, he also wants to pay it forward. He’s thinking of people like himself growing up in New Jersey with no clear path toward being part of NASCAR.

“It’s lowering the barrier of entry,” Matarazzo said. “We’re kind of stomping into uncharted territory with what we’re trying to do here.”

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Martin Truex Jr. has ‘unfinished business’ at Martinsville Speedway

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Something’s gotta give for Martin Truex Jr.

Truex enters this weekend’s Cup race at Martinsville Speedway on a quiet hot streak. In the four races since the Daytona 500, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver has alternated runner-up finishes at Atlanta and Phoenix, along with eighth-place finishes at Las Vegas and Fontana this past Sunday.

Dating back to the 2018 season finale in Miami Truex has three runner-up finishes in the last six races.

Truex has also placed in the top five nine times since he last won in July at Kentucky Speedway (22 races).

But there’s a good chance Truex can improve his fortunes this weekend with the return to the half-mile track in Martinsville, Virginia.

Truex has top-five finishes in his previous three visits to Martinsville. You may remember the most recent one in October.

Truex started 33rd after his car failed inspection and slowly climbed his way to the front, eventually leading 18 laps. It ended in a riveting duel with Joey Logano over the last few laps and Logano executing a bump-and-run on Truex in the final turn on the last lap.

Truex finished third.

“We’ve certainly got some unfinished business going into Martinsville this weekend,” Truex said in a press release. “It’s a place that wasn’t one of my favorites early in my career, but the last few years, I feel like I’ve really started to get a handle on it.”

Somehow, some way Truex is seeking not only his first Martinsville victory, but his first short-track win in 79 attempts in the Cup Series.

Martinsville has been the short track Truex has come closest to getting a win at. He’s crashed out of the last two races at Bristol and in his last 10 starts there he’s led in just one.

He’s had winning cars at Richmond, but a combination of wrecks and issues on pit road have prevented him from winning after leading more than 675 laps in four of his last five starts there.

So with Truex seeking redemption on multiple fronts with a win – which would be his first for JGR – maybe Martinsville arrived just in time.

“It would mean a lot to win (at Martinsville), especially after how the last race there ended up,” Truex said. “I’m confident that we’ll have a fast SiriusXM Camry this weekend and be right there to have a shot at the end of the race.”