Martin Truex Jr., Cole Pearn move to Joe Gibbs Racing for 2019

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Martin Truex Jr. and crew chief Cole Pearn will join Joe Gibbs Racing and compete in the No. 19 Toyota in 2019, the team announced Wednesday.

The move comes with Furniture Row Racing shutting down after the end of this season. The closing, due to a lack of sponsorship, was announced in September.

Truex, who won the 2017 Cup title, replaces Daniel Suarez in the No. 19. Suarez has driven it since 2017 when he replaced Carl Edwards.

Suarez has not announced his plans for 2019.

Truex has been paired with Pearn since 2015, Truex’s second year with Furniture Row. In 141 starts together in the No. 78 Toyota they have 17 wins and 54 top fives.

They have won the Coca-Cola 600 and Southern 500.

Truex had two wins in his previous nine full-time Cup seasons.

Truex and Pearn have four wins this season and are part of the Round of 8 in the playoffs.

Sponsorship for Truex will be announced at a later date.

“Anytime you have an opportunity to bring two people of this caliber into your organization, it’s certainly an exciting time,” said team owner Joe Gibbs in a press release. “They obviously have developed a chemistry that has led to tremendous success, including a championship. We’ve gotten to know them well over the past few years through the alliance and having been part of the Toyota family. They both make us stronger as an organization.

“We really appreciate everything Daniel (Suárez) has done for Joe Gibbs Racing over these past several years. He has made the most of every opportunity from winning the championship in the Xfinity Series to making the jump into the Cup Series for us. We look forward to hearing about his plans going forward and know he continues to have a bright future in our sport.”

Said Truex in the release: “I’m really excited to have the opportunity to join Joe Gibbs Racing. Obviously to be able to make this transition and still be able to work alongside Cole is something that was very important to me. There is also a real comfort level working with the JGR team and I wanted to stay in the Toyota family. We still have big goals for the remainder of this season, but it’s nice to know what we will be doing in 2019.”

Said Pearn in the release: “I’m extremely proud of everything we’ve been able to accomplish over the past few years out of Denver and the move to JGR will make the transition for 2019 an easy one. It’s a great organization with a lot of great people and a leadership team that wants to win. We still have work to do this season of course, but it’s nice to finally make our plans official for 2019.”

Barney Visser, the owner of Furniture Row Racing, issued the following statement.

“I want to personally thank Martin and Cole for their contributions in making Furniture Row Racing a championship-caliber team. There’s no doubt in my mind that they will continue to be a winning driver/crew chief combination with Joe Gibbs Racing.  They are outstanding representatives for NASCAR and I am proud to have been associated with them. But before Martin and Cole depart for a new endeavor we still have two races remaining, and hopefully we will be celebrating another championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway.”

Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman ‘clear the air’ about All-Star incident

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CONCORD, N.C. — Five days after Clint Bowyer threw several punches at Ryan Newman as Newman sat in his car after the All-Star Race, the two sat side by side during an autograph session at a Bass Pro Shops near Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Bowyer was upset with Newman for contact that led to Bowyer crashing after last weekend’s race. After Bowyer drove to pit road, he ran to Newman’s car while still wearing his helmet — earning a rebuke from his team owner for not removing his helmet. After reaching Newman’s car, Bowyer unleashed a number of punches.

Both drivers talked this week before they got to the autograph session.

“It was good to have a conversation about it,” Bowyer said Thursday night after qualifying eighth at Charlotte Motor Speedway for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600. “At the end of the day there were a lot of things that escalated very fast and obviously got out of hand.

“There’s one thing I can always promise you about something like that and it is unfortunate, and you hate having things like that happen, (but) that’s probably the best attended autograph session at Bass Pro Shops that I’ve had in a long, long time.

“Obviously I don’t want to do that every weekend. At the end of the day we all love this sport, we are all passionate about this sport and every now and then that shows a little brighter.”

Bowyer was asked if he thought Newman would retaliate.

“I don’t know,” Bowyer said. “Hopefully it’s behind us. We both have a little better understanding of how it escalated into that and you’ve just got to get stuff like that behind you.”

Newman said it was good to talk to Bowyer about what happened.

“It was good to kind of clear the air,” Newman said. “It is what it is. It’s the past. Just something you always remember. You learn about somebody in a situation like that.”

Newman was asked if he’ll race Bowyer differently.

“I try to race everybody the same way and that’s hard because that’s what I get paid to do,” said Newman, who qualified 18th for the Coca-Cola 600. “I try to give-and-take when I came. The way it works anymore with stage points, especially in the All-Star race, you don’t give and take. You take.”

Starting lineup for the Coca-Cola 600

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William Byron will start first and Aric Almirola will start second for Sunday’s 60th running of the Coca-Cola 600.

Byron, 21, is the youngest pole-sitter in the race’s history.

The top five is completed by defending race winner Kyle Busch, 2017 race winner Austin Dillon and two-time 600 winner Kevin Harvick.

Click here for the starting lineup.

William Byron wins pole for Coca-Cola 600

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CONCORD, N.C. —  William Byron won the pole for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Byron claimed the top spot with a qualifying speed of 183.424 mph. At the age of 21, he’s the youngest Coca-Cola 600 pole-sitter.

It’s Byron’s second career Cup pole, joining his pole in this year’s Daytona 500.

He beat out Aric Almirola (183.069 mph), Kyle Busch (182.933), Austin Dillon (182.766) and Kevin Harvick (182.741).

“This is awesome, a dream come true,” Byron told FS1. “Obviously, I grew up in Charlotte so I came to this race every year. It’s a dream come true to qualify on the pole next to Hendrick Motorsports across the street over there. … Can’t think of a better way to start the weekend.”

Byron has qualified on the front row five time this year and four times in the last seven races.

The pole is the 12th for Hendrick Motorsports in the 600, which leads all teams.

Busch has qualified in the top three for the last three 600s.

Corey LaJoie‘s No. 32 Ford failed pre-qualifying inspection twice, resulting in the ejection of an engineer.

Click here for qualifying results.

Joey Logano and family mourn their dog

Photo: Logano family
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CONCORD, N.C. — Joey Logano provided a sobering update Thursday night about the family’s lost dog, Luigi.

The dog had been missing since Tuesday.

Logano’s wife Brittany wrote on a Facebook post for lost and found pets in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area that the family’s French Bulldog got out of their fence Tuesday night.

“Our little Luigi I believe he’s stolen, I think,” Joey Logano said earlier Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “We can’t really put a match to anything. We put a bunch of signs up and things on social media and we watched the cameras at our house and we see him running around the backyard and then you don’t see him again. Not really sure what happened there.”

“We’ve learned that Frenchies are one of the most stolen dogs around. It’s kind of sad that someone does that. It’s a member of your family. It’s a jerk move. Hopefully, we can figure it out.”