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Hattori Racing to replace Truck champ Brett Moffitt

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NASCAR Truck champion Brett Moffitt told Autoweek that he will not return to Hattori Racing for the 2019 season. Autoweek reported that the team is replacing Moffitt with a driver who will bring funding.

Even with last year’s success – Moffitt won six of 23 races – the team struggled to make it to some races and even considered starting and parking to maintain its playoff eligibility.

“We always wanted to stay together,” Moffitt told Autoweek. “The crew guys and I certainly wanted to stay together. I found out on Monday and I was at the shop on Tuesday to get my stuff. I met with (team owner) Shige (Hattori) and he told me the direction.”

Hattori issued a statement Wednesday that did not address who will drive for his team in 2019:

“We are extremely proud of what we achieved with Brett and winning the championship together. Our organization’s relationship with (Moffitt) dates back to 2012 and we’re thankful for what he has meant to our team and the effort he put forth. This past season was full of adversity and we faced numerous challenges in getting to the racetrack each week. Our entire team is working hard to put the best possible program together for next year and we’re excited to compete in 2019. We’re looking forward to celebrating our championship on Saturday night with Brett at the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series awards banquet and hope our results together benefit all of us in the future.”

Moffitt’s status is not surprising. Even after winning the season finale in Miami to win the championship, Moffitt acknowledged that “I’m still not guaranteed a job next year.”

In an interview with Fox Sports Wednesday, Moffitt explained he was very understanding of the decision by Hattori.

“I get it. It’s a business at the end of the day,” Moffitt said. “If he can take an option where it’s going to help propel his business in the right direction, it’s what you got to do. If sticking with me would have meant a lot of uncertainty I totally get and respect the decision.”

Moffitt’s uncertain future was posed to NASCAR President Steve Phelps two days after Moffitt won the Truck title. Phelps was asked how the sport can make sure successful drivers have their place regardless of how they relate to a company.

“Brett Moffitt is obviously a very talented race car driver who has won more this year obviously than he’s ever won,” Phelps said in Miami the day of the Cup season finale. “He has a bright future. What that future looks like, I don’t know. What I do know is that we work with race teams from a revenue standpoint as much as we can. We also work with drivers to try to bridge driver opportunities.

Are we always successful in getting a driver who wants to be driving in whatever series they want to drive in? No. But there are a lot of historical things that we have done to try to make sure that if a driver is interested in continuing that that driver has that opportunity.”

A little over two weeks after the end of the season, Moffitt is sporting a fresh mustache. Five days after he claimed the title he shaved the one he had during his playoff run.

Moffitt explained bad things started happening to him once he shaved NASCAR’s first championship mustache since 2001.

“Five days after the championship I started playing really bad golf after I shaved it,” Moffitt said. “Then I found out that I will not be returning to HRE. So all these things kind of started happening … Then I started growing it back and I went out and played golf and shot a 78, which is the lowest round I’ve ever shot. I think (the mustache) got powers, man.”

NASCAR America presents the Motorsports Hour, 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN

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This week’s episode of NASCAR America presents the Motorsports Hour airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Marty Snider, Danielle Trotta, Parker Kligerman and Steve Letarte will discuss multiple auto racing disciplines, including NASCAR and IndyCar.

If you can’t catch either of today’s shows on TV, watch 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.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. throws perfect strike for Red Sox

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With the Boston Red Sox nearly 10 games behind their No. 1 rivals, the American League East-leading New York Yankees, they could use some additional pitching help.

A good southpaw would be a big help.

They got some help on Wednesday – for one pitch at least, that is – as Cup Series driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. threw out the first pitch prior to the game vs. the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park.

Scouts likely had a few raised eyebrows when Stenhouse threw a perfect strike.

 

I’ve thrown out first pitches at some minor league games, but Fenway Park puts it at a whole ‘nother level,” Stenhouse told NESN.com.

But Stenhouse, wearing a No. 17 jersey, delivered when it was his turn atop the mound. In a sense, it was a home game for Stenhouse, as Red Sox owner John Henry is a part-owner of Roush Fenway Racing.

Stenhouse and teammate Ryan Newman, who was also in uniform for the game, were in Boston on their way to this weekend’s Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Stenhouse is currently 19th in the standings and with seven races left to make the playoffs, he knows how significant this weekend will be for him.

It’s very important,” Stenhouse told NESN. “New Hampshire could be one of those turning points. We’re 19th in points and need to get to 16th. Or we could win and just lock ourselves in that way, too.

Hopefully, we’ll have a fast enough car and play the right strategy to put ourselves in a position to win. These next few races are definitely critical to us to make sure we do our part. We’ll need somebody else to falter a little bit, but we’re going to go out and do our job and see how things play out.”

And if Stenhouse doesn’t make the playoffs, he might want to keep that pitching arm warm and loose, just in case the Red Sox really need him.

 

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Ryan Vargas set for Xfinity debut at Iowa Speedway

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Ryan Vargas, a member of the 2018-19 NASCAR Next class and 2019 Drive for Diversity program, is set to make his Xfinity Series debut next weekend at Iowa Speedway.

JD Motorsports announced Wednesday Vargas will drive its No. 15 Chevrolet in the July 27 U.S. Cellular 250, which will air on NBCSN.

Vargas, 18, competed full-time in the K&N Pro Series East last year for Rev Racing. Vargas was let go by Rev Racing in December and has spent this season racing late models and competing for the Irwindale Speedway track championship.

The race at Iowa will mark Vargas’ national NASCAR series debut. Vargas said making his Xfinity debut at Iowa “just makes sense” given his seventh-place finish there last year in the K&N Series.

“Last year, I felt that I was able to run my best race all year at the speedway, and to have the chance to drive for a well-respected team owner in Johnny Davis really adds to the excitement heading into the weekend,” Vargas said in a press release. “I think if we can keep all the fenders on my No. 15 Chevrolet and run as many laps as possible, the weekend will be a success. At this point in my career, I want to learn as much as I can so I can keep moving up the NASCAR ladder, so I am not necessarily worried about what the results show.”

Vargas will be sponsored by Cranio Care Bears, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness of Craniosynostosis, a condition that causes problems with a child’s brain and skull growth. Vargas underwent surgery when he was 11 months old to correct issues from it.

“It means a lot to me to be able to help bring awareness to this great charity in Cranio Care Bears through the sport that I love so much,” Vargas said. “I know that I will have a lot of little supporters cheering me on that look up to me as a role model in the Cranio community, and I want to show them that anything is possible, even with the condition.”

 

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Updated entry lists for NASCAR at New Hampshire

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The NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series will be in action this weekend at the 1-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H.

The Gander Outdoors Truck Series is off until July 27 at Pocono Raceway.

Here are the entry lists for the Cup and Xfinity races at New Hampshire:

Cup – Foxwoods Resort & Casino 301 (3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN)

There are 37 cars entered.

Quin Houff will be back in the No. 77 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet.

Andy Seuss is entered in Rick Ware Racing’s No. 51 Ford and will make his Cup debut. Austin Theriault will also make his Cup debut in Rick Ware Racing’s No. 52 Chevrolet.

Click here for the full entry list.

Xfinity — Roxor 200 (4 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN)

There are 41 cars entered.

Cup regular Paul Menard will be driving the No. 12 Team Penske Ford Mustang.

Ryan Truex will be making his third Xfinity start of the season in the No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet.

Tyler Matthews will make his third Xfinity start of 2019 in the No. 15 JD Motorsports Chevrolet.

Harrison Burton makes his third start of the season in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

Kaz Grala is entered in his fourth race of the year in Richard Childress Racing’s No. 21 Chevrolet.

Canadian driver Alex Labbe makes his third start of 2019 in the No. 90 DGM Racing Chevrolet.

CJ McLaughlin will make his Xfinity Series debut, driving the No. 93 RSS Racing Chevrolet.

Click here for the full entry list.