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John Hunter Nemechek to compete for GMS Racing in 2019

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John Hunter Nemechek will compete for GMS Racing in the Xfinity Series next year, the team announced Thursday.

Nemechek will drive the No. 23 Chevrolet, taking over for Spencer Gallagher.

The son of Joe Nemechek, John Hunter Nemechek competed part-time for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2018, making 18 Xfinity starts in the No. 42 Chevrolet. Ross Chastain will drive that car full-time next season.

A NASCAR spokesperson said a decision has not been made yet on whether Nemechek will be eligible for Rookie of the Year next season.

Nemechek scored his first series win on Oct. 20 at Kansas Speedway in his 15th start.

He finished the season with six top fives, 11 to 10s and one pole.

“I am very grateful for the opportunity that Mr. (Maury) Gallagher and the entire GMS Racing organization has presented to me to be able to run full-time in 2019,” Nemechek said in a press release. “The results that GMS Racing showed last year in their NASCAR Xfinity Series program were impressive. Their goal is to create a championship-caliber team, like their truck series program, and I believe that we can achieve that goal in the 2019 season.”

Nemechek, 21, will have Chad Norris as his crew chief. It will be Norris’ second year as the leader of the No. 23 team.

“John Hunter is a wheelman,” GMS Racing President Mike Beam said in the press release. “We are excited to have him on board for the 2019 season. With how much progress we showed last year in our NASCAR Xfinity Series program, I know that John Hunter will take us to the next level.”

 

Kaulig Racing mourns death of crew chief Nick Harrison

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Kaulig Racing President Chris Rice said that when he heard of crew chief Nick Harrison’s death on Sunday morning, he thought back to a conversation they had after Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Justin Haley finished 13th in that race.

“All I could think about with Nick is when he got up on the plane and he came over and talked to me as we were leaving New Hampshire,” Rice said Monday night on “Late Shift” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

“He was stressed out that we didn’t run that well. He looked at me and he goes, ‘You know, we sucked there.’ I said, ‘Nick, we have sucked at New Hampshire for a long time. So the good thing is, we’ve changed drivers, we’ve changed crew chiefs, ain’t nothing fixed it, so it’s obviously something, whatever we’re doing.’

“He said, ‘You’re right. We’re going to go get them at Iowa.’ He was worried about the next race.”

Harrison died Sunday. He was 37. Harrison’s brother, Zach, told the Tennessean that a cause of death has not been determined.

“We know that he lived every single day to the fullest,” Rice said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio about Nick Harrison. “That’s what we want to do at Kaulig Racing. Tomorrow when we show up, it is going to be better than what it was today. The next day we show up is going to be better than what it was Monday.”

Rice also said it will be a challenge for the team when they get to the track this weekend at Iowa Speedway.

“We just know that walking into the race track this weekend is going to be tough,” Rice said, “so we need every fan’s support that we can get for all my guys and myself and we’ll definitely make it through it.”

Rice said on “Late Shift” that he will serve as Haley’s crew chief for the foreseeable future.

“You cannot replace Nick,” said Rice, who has served as an Xfinity Series crew chief for 318 races. “We will never replace Nick. We will just have somebody fill his job. But right now we’re not in a hurry to do anything.

“We will definitely be looking and looking at what our next step is. Justin has another year and a half, if not even more, with Kaulig Racing and we will put somebody with him that is going to be there through that time. We don’t want to put somebody that is going to be with us for 10 days or three months or whatever. We will want to look at somebody that is going to help us grow Kaulig Racing.”

Harrison’s service is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET July 30 at Spring Hill High School in Columbia, Tennessee. The family has requested that memorial donations be made to the Nick Harrison Scholarship Fund at First Farmers & Merchants Bank in Spring Hill, Tennessee or Spring Hill Memorial Funeral Home.

“We know it’s going to take time for us to get over the loss of our friend not being here,” Rice said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “We will always miss him, but we will never forget him and he’ll always be with us. We’re going to dig like he would want us to dig.

“Once Justin makes the playoffs, it’s going to be in memory of Nick. Once Justin makes it to the final four and goes for that championship, that’s what it’s going to be for.”

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These are the broken records Jimmie Johnson doesn’t want to hear about

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Jimmie Johnson’s career has been marked with breaking countless NASCAR records. But there’s two broken records of a different sort that Johnson is tired of hearing about. Still, they keep spinning him around and around.

First, Johnson’s winless streak – the longest of his NASCAR career – has hit 79 races. His last win was more than two years ago, June 4, 2017 at Dover. Since then, Hendrick Motorsports teammates Chase Elliott has four wins and Alex Bowman one win to Johnson’s zero. 

Second, Johnson heads to Pocono Raceway this week on the outside of the 16-driver playoff bubble. He is 17 points behind the 16th and final playoff eligible driver, Clint Bowyer, and 31 points out of 13th place (currently held by Kyle Larson). 

So Johnson still has wiggle room and time to get back in the top 16. He also knows he needs just one win and he’ll be in the playoffs.

We’ve been trying all year, it’s not like we can magically flip a switch and all of a sudden have more (wins),” Johnson said. We’ve been able to run in the top five and we need to get back to doing that. That’s really what it boils down to.”

He’s not likely to reach the playoffs if his current run of bad luck continues. After having his two best finishes of the season — fourth at Chicagoland and third at Daytona — Sunday’s race at New Hampshire marked Johnson’s second consecutive 30th-place finish. That’s the 12th time he has finished outside the top 10 and fifth time he’s finished outside the top 20 in 2019.

Johnson’s struggles on Sunday can be blamed on mechanical issues that cost him valuable time on pit road while his team made repairs. He finished 13 laps off the pace.

It was certainly a letdown to say the least,” Johnson said. “We had some issue with the power steering and the water pump pulleys. I thought it might have been from some contact on a restart. I got in the back of the car in front of me. They told me that wasn’t the case.

So, I assume some debris got in the pulley system and took out my power steering and the water pump as well. So, it’s just unlucky on that front. Certainly the wrong time of the year to have some bad luck.”

Johnson dropped from 15th to 17th in the standings after Loudon. Conversely, Erik Jones and Ryan Newman both passed Johnson and moved up in the points to 14th and 15th respectively. And Daniel Suarez gained 12 points to tie Johnson for 17th, each with 488 points.

So as he heads to Pocono this weekend, Johnson will once again be faced with a situation where he has to bounce back from outside the playoff bubble — this is the fourth time he’s been 17th in the standings this season. If he can leave Pocono 16th or higher, it’s a spot he needs to remain in for the following five races lest he misses the 10-race postseason for the first time in his career.

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Preliminary entry lists for NASCAR at Pocono and Iowa

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All three NASCAR premier national series will be in action this weekend with the Cup and Truck Series at Pocono Raceway, and the Xfinity Series iat Iowa Speedway.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for the weekend:

Cup – Gander RV 400 (3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN) at Pocono

There are 38 cars entered in the race but only 35 drivers listed on the preliminary entry list.

Cars still needing drivers are the No. 51 Ford of Petty Ware Racing, the No. 52 Ford of Rick Ware Racing and the No. 53 Chevrolet of Rick Ware Racing.

Kyle Busch won this race last season. Busch also won six weeks ago at Pocono.

Click here for the entry list.

Xfinity – U.S. Cellular 250 (5 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN) at Iowa

There are 39 cars entered in this race. There is one unfilled driver slot on the preliminary entry list: the No. 17 Chevrolet of Rick Ware Racing.

Christopher Bell won the June race at Iowa.

Click here for the entry list.

Trucks – Gander RV 150 (1 p.m. ET Saturday on Fox) at Pocono

There are 31 Trucks entered in this race. There is one unfilled driver slot on the preliminary entry list: the No. 0 Chevrolet of Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing.

Brett Moffitt won this race last year.

Click here for the entry list.

 

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Recapping Kevin Harvick’s Loudon win

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs on NBCSN from 5-6 p.m. ET and will recap Kevin Harvick‘s win at New Hampshire on Sunday.

Steve Letarte is joined by Kyle Petty and Nate Ryan to discuss that and other storylines.

If you can’t catch today’s show 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.