NASCAR America: Hendrick could be more ‘valuable’ with Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus separated

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The Cup season finale in Miami brought an end to the Jimmie Johnson-Chad Knaus era at Hendrick Motorsports.

Johnson will work with crew chief Kevin Meendering in 2019 and Knaus will be paired with William Byron in his sophomore Cup season.

On NASCAR America, Steve Letarte and Dale Jarrett discussed how much more “valuable” the seven-time champions could be to Hendrick now that they’re separated.

“Shockingly, when I look at this split … I wonder, (it would be) crazy to say that if Hendrick Motorsports doesn’t become more valuable splitting up the dynamic duo,” Letarte said. “Jimmie and Chad have used every trick, every relationship tool, everything they had. ‘Cause I have no doubt Chad will be exactly what William Byron needs. Kevin Meendering’s done a great job with Elliott Sadler. I think it’s very unique that he gets the same shot with another veteran driver.”

Jarrett said he applauds owner Rick Hendrick for being the person to “step in and say, ‘We have to make this change. It’s time for something different for both of you.’ I think that both will have more success than what they have had the last 18 months.”

Watch the above video for more.

 

True Gritty: Martin Truex Jr. enjoys another Philly sports fan adventure

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His new Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was nowhere in sight, but Martin Truex Jr. seemed worried he hadn’t donned his helmet Wednesday night – at a hockey game.

The 2017 Cup champion spent the first period between the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins benches as the featured guest of “Inside The Glass”, where he was “excited and nervous, maybe a little bit scared” to fulfill his goal of seeing “how close I can get to that puck without it actually hitting me.”

Truex was close enough that he ducked behind NBCSN’s Brian Boucher (a retired goaltender who knows about stopping pucks) as the action whizzed by a few times.

“I feel like this is a NASCAR race,” Truex said. “It’s so intense, you’ve got to be here to see it in person.

“TV is awesome, but when you get here down by this ice, it’s amazing what these guys are doing. NASCAR fans say the same thing about racing all the time.”

It was the second visit to a Flyers game on NBCSN for Truex (three years ago, he said he remembered to bring a helmet), who rarely turns down the chance to pull for the Flyers, Phillies and Eagles.

During an episode of the NASCAR on NBC Podcast a year ago, Truex said his hometown of Mayetta was about 25 miles south of an imaginary line in New Jersey that divided his native state’s allegiances between pro teams in Philadelphia and the New York metro area.

With his family about a little more than an hour from Philadelphia, Truex grew up as a diehard fan of all professional sports in the City of Brotherly Love.

“Everyone I grew up around are Philly fans in general,” he said. “My dad. Aunts and uncles. I was born into it. It’s been fun.”

Last year, his obligations as Cup champ included a serendipitous trip to Super Bowl LII, where he took part in NBC’s pregame coverage and then watched his beloved Eagles defeat the New England Patriots 41-33.

He received the royal treatment again before and during a 4-3 victory for his favorite NHL team Wednesday, meeting the Flyers team and its beloved, irreverent and oft-viral mascot, Gritty (who presented Truex with a personalized jersey).

Truex left the Wells Fargo Center with many stories to tell crew chief Cole Pearn, a Canadian and avid Toronto Maple Leafs fan who played for rec hockey league teams in Denver while working with Truex at Furniture Row Racing the past five seasons.

With Furniture Row’s closure after the No. 78’s runner-up finish to 2018 champion Joey Logano, Truex and Pearn will move to Gibbs’ No. 19 in hopes of earning a third consecutive berth in the Championship 4.

“I feel good about the season coming up,” Truex said Wednesday. “(It’s) 32 days away from the Daytona 500. That’s hard to believe, but we’re really excited to race for a first-class team, that’s Joe Gibbs Racing, a championship team, year after year.

“We’re excited for the future, and hopefully it’ll be a great year for us.”

Jay Fabian named Cup Series Managing Director

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NASCAR announced it has named Jay Fabian as the Cup Series managing director, replacing Richard Buck.

NASCAR confirmed Buck is no longer with the company, which underwent significant layoffs last week. Buck had served as the managing director of the Cup Series since January 2014.

Fabian movies into the position after serving as the managing director of technical integration at NASCAR, where he oversaw post-race technical inspection at the NASCAR Research and Development Center.

Fabian’s experience includes serving as an over-the-wall crew member, a crew chief and a 10-year tenure at the defunct Michael Waltrip Racing.

Jay Fabian (YouTube)

A native of Everett, Pennsylvania, Fabian joined NASCAR in April 2016.

“With his vast experience across the industry, Jay Fabian is uniquely suited for this position,” Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s executive vice president and chief racing development officer said in a press release. “Jay’s steady leadership and depth of knowledge are tremendous assets that will greatly benefit the series and all of NASCAR.”

Fabian will report directly to Scott Miller, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition.

“This is a fast-paced sport that is constantly evolving, and I’m thankful for this opportunity and eager to take on the challenge,” Fabian said a press release. “Racing has been my passion for as long as I can remember. There is growing anticipation for the 2019 season, and I’m looking forward to being a part of an outstanding team that will help build our sport.”

Fabian’s passion for racing stretches to his own son’s career.

He documents Brady Fabian’s karting career frequently on Twitter.

Mike Wallace ready to make another run at NASCAR Cup racing

Mike Wallace before his last Cup start, the 2015 Daytona 500. Photo: Getty Images
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When Mike Wallace developed a heart issue that resulted in triple bypass surgery in April 2015, it left the veteran NASCAR driver with unfinished business in his racing career.

Now, nearly four years later and fully healthy, the 59-year-old brother of NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace and Kenny Wallace hopes to finish some of that business in the 2019 season with Rick Ware Racing.

“I still have that passion,” Mike Wallace told NBC Sports on Wednesday. “I didn’t quit. I didn’t stop racing in 2015 on my own terms. And I’m very comfortable with life. It’s not like I have to do this to complete it, but I just like racing, I like it a lot, I like to be behind the wheel.”

Rick Ware Racing has two NASCAR Cup charters for 2019, which means both the No. 51 and No. 52 must run every race. Ware has offered one of those rides to Wallace, but the latter has to attract more sponsorship.

“Rick reached out, asked me to drive for him, but we have to find some money,” Wallace said. “Rick’s not in a position to hire a driver straight out. So we have a little bit of associate sponsorship put together. But we need sponsorship dollars to complete the package.

“It could be a great deal for him and his team, a great deal for me and it’s an incredibly reasonable, great opportunity for a marketing partner or partners to get involved, because you probably couldn’t get yourself into this sport and the NASCAR business any more reasonable than you can right now.”

Wallace posted on both LinkedIn and Facebook in the last couple of days seeking sponsors for the No. 52 car that he hopes to drive all season, with the exception of the Daytona 500 (although if a primary sponsor steps forward in the next week, Wallace could potentially still compete in that race).

“I know because of my age, Roger Penske, Joe Gibbs, people like that aren’t going to be calling for me to drive their cars, so why not do it if you can do it,” said Wallace, who turns 60 in March. “I still think I’m alert, healthy, have done every test you can do, have great endurance, eyesight, everybody says I’m good to go.

“Passion drives my desire. I’ve always had a passion for being a race car driver and motorsports and the NASCAR world. NASCAR racing is the coolest thing in the country.”

For now, Wallace said he and Ware have enough sponsor dollars to field the No. 52 for Atlanta, California and Las Vegas for starters.

“We worked together years ago, Rick actually fielded my daughter Chrissy in 2007-2008 era, I’ve raced against him or cars he’s owned forever,” Wallace said. “As he told me, he’d like to have a nice season with a driver like myself who can win races and run competitively and take care of equipment. We just have to make it work (financially).”

Wallace and son Matt competed in Super Late Model competition last year and it whetted the elder Wallace’s appetite to give NASCAR another go.

Wallace has made 197 Cup starts, the last race coming in 2015 (Daytona 500) just before his heart issue. He also has a combined 609 starts across both the Xfinity and Truck series, with a combined nine wins and 55 top-5 finishes.

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Joey Gase joins MBM Motorsports in Xfinity, Cup

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MBM Motorsports announced Wednesday it has signed Joey Gase to compete for the team in the Xfinity and Cup Series this season.

Gase will compete full-time in Xfinity driving the No. 35 Toyota. He will race part-time in Cup in the No. 66 Toyota, beginning with an attempt to make the Daytona 500. MBM does not have a charter for the No. 66, meaning he must qualify for the race if there are more than 40 cars entered.

Gase has 208 Xfinity starts and has competed full-time since 2014. Last year he drove for Go Green Racing and finished 20th in the standings.

He also has 30 Cup starts since 2014.

“I am very excited and thankful for the opportunity Carl (Long) and MBM Motorsports is giving me this year,” Gase said in a press release. “Every offseason is stressful when you don’t know what your plans for the following season will be. This offseason by far has been the most stressful of my career with some unforeseen things happening. One evening I was sitting in my office trying to figure out what my next move should be and then out of the blue Carl gave me a call and we talked for about two hours over the phone and now here we are. MBM Motorsports has grown and improved their program a lot over the last two years, especially the end of last season. I am very excited to be a part of that growth in 2019.”

Eternal Fan, Donate Life, Medline, Agri Supply, Pro Master and Page Construction will be among the partners supporting Gase this season.

“Having an experienced driver in Joey Gase to start our season is a huge blessing,” MBM team owner Carl Long said in the press release. “He has worked hard to bring sponsorship to MBM. Today’s driver has to be gifted in handling a car and promotions. Lucky for us Joey is one of the best in all of NASCAR at doing both. Look for us to turn heads this year!”