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Friday 5: Davey Allison makes one Cup driver’s Dream Team

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The NASCAR Hall of Fame celebrates its 10th class tonight (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN) and while the spotlight may be on Jeff Gordon, there’s one inductee who is special to Ryan Blaney.

Asked this week who he would have on a four-driver fantasy team if he could choose competitors from any era, Blaney told NBC Sports that he would have Davey Allison, Dale Earnhardt, David Pearson and Jimmie Johnson.

Allison will join Gordon, Alan Kulwicki, Roger Penske and Jack Roush in the Hall of Fame tonight.

So why did Blaney choose Allison for his dream team?

“I watched all of his races and heard stories about him,” Blaney said. “He obviously came from a great racing family. He was so successful in the short time he was around the sport. He was definitely taken too soon. You never know what his potential could have been.”

Allison won 19 times in 191 starts, including the 1992 Daytona 500. He was the Rookie of the Year in 1987 and finished second to his father, Hall of Famer Bobby Allison, in the 1988 Daytona 500. Davey Allison died July 13, 1993, from injuries suffered in a helicopter crash at Talladega Superspeedway. He was 32.

“I got to know the Allison family a little bit and just hearing some stories about him and how he was always one of the nicest guys in the garage and his skill behind the wheel was pretty amazing and what he fought through,” Blaney said of what stands out to him about Allison. “There was a year when he was almost hurt about every single week and he made a run for the championship. That dedication is pretty amazing. I just would have loved to have seen his potential and seen what would have been. I think he definitely would have been a multiple-time champion.”

2. New year, new address

Ryan Newman has switched teams before but he says his move to Roush Fenway Racing this season is unique.

“Everything is new for me,” Newman told NBC Sports. “Absolutely everything. Every aspect of what I’ll be doing from the manufacturer, the team, the car owner, crew chief, pit crew, there’s not a single person that I’ve really worked with, that I know of, in the shop throughout my racing career, which I think is a good thing.

“It keeps everything fresh. It gives me opportunity to build new chemistry and that chemistry, we all know, is so powerful in our sport.

“I know there’s a lot of work that goes into it because I’ve been in this position before but not to this extent. We’re building a new team. It’s not like I’m going into the organization that I left from where we had an existing team and I was just a plug and play driver. This is plug and play everyone and I think it comes with a lot of responsibility.”

What does he mean by responsibility?

“Just everybody has to do their job,” he said. “It’s like building that chemistry. Everybody on the team has to take responsibility for their 100 percent for everybody to have that collective 100 percent. I think of as a driver I’ve got to do my job, my crew chief has to do his job, pit crew has to do their job, Jack Roush has to do his job. Collectively, we can all do our jobs and still be a seventh-place car that day, so we have to figure out how to be better than everybody else, commit to 100 percent, deliver 100 percent and take responsibility for it.”

3. Adjusting to the new rules

Jimmie Johnson is in Las Vegas to complete the second day of testing with the new rules package today.

Before he left for the test, he talked about how with less horsepower, drivers are in the gas more. He told NBC Sports how he has used the throttle in the past to control the car and this will be an adjustment.

“I think it’s less natural for me,” he said of staying on the throttle more. “ I’ve always been better with more power and trying to control wheel spin. You think about my dirt days and we always had way more power than traction. So that environment is good for me. When you take power away, that’s just not the way I grew up racing. I always had way too much power and not enough traction. This, technically I think works against me.”

We’ll see how the seven-time champion adjusts.

4. A memorable experience (for the wrong reason)

Kevin Harvick has been in the Rolex 24 once, or so the records state, listing him as finishing 69th in 2002.

“My first experience was a bad experience,” he told NBC Sports. “It was kind of a last-minute deal. I qualified the car and got to practice and got all the way up to the race. Whoever was driving first, it wound up blowing up, so I never actually got to participate in the race.

“I would say that that door is not closed (to running in that race again). I wouldn’t say that it’s high on the priority list currently at this particular time just because If I ever go do it again … I want to be in the fastest class because I don’t want to have to look at my mirror all day because it’s definitely not something that I would be looking forward to do.

“(Competing in that race) would definitely be something that would be interesting if the right opportunity came about but not something I’m actively seeking.”

5. One final weekend

This marks the final weekend before Cup cars are on track. Teams take to the track Feb. 9 for practice for the Clash and for Daytona 500 qualifying. The Clash is Feb. 10.

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Hailie Deegan on IMSA debut: ‘I’m not mad. I’m gaining experience’

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The first day of Hailie Deegan’s foray into sports car racing was one with mixed results.

Deegan and teammate, NASCAR Xfinity driver Chase Briscoe, finished 43rd of 51 teams that were entered in Friday’s Michelin Pilot Challenge at Daytona International Speedway.

Deegan ran as high as 15th before the car experienced mechanical issues roughly three hours into the four-hour event, and it was brought in to be worked on for the remaining time.

Deegan and Briscoe were in the No. 22 Multimatic Motorsports Inc. Ford GT4, which ran a total of 86 laps. One other NASCAR driver, Xfinity pilot Austin Cindric, was teamed with Seb Priaulx in the No. 15 Multimatic Motorsports Inc. Ford Mustang GT4, and together they finished 45th, completing 78 laps.

One other name of note was IndyCar driver Gabby Chaves, who finished 28th (completed 107 laps).

The fastest team in the field was Dylan Murry, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Jim Cox, who collectively ran the entire 110 laps.

While her team continued to work on the car in the garage, Deegan visited the infield media center to speak about her first race experience in an IMSA sports car.

I feel like I just gained a lot of experience,” Deegan said. “I’m here to gain experience after that three-day road test, coming here and practicing for two days.

“I just feel like I know a lot more about racing than I did before. And that’s why I’m here and supposed to be doing.”

The biggest challenge, Deegan said, was the large number of cars she had to compete against.

“The traffic is a little difficult to deal with; it’s not bad, though,” Deegan said. “It makes it fun. It makes it interesting. You constantly have to be on your toes.

“What I like about sports car racing is how many of the points you have to remember in your head. You get a little distracted for a second, and the next thing you know, you overdrive the corner that kind of laps into the next corner.

“So there’s constantly so much going on, you have to be on top of your game.”

While she would have liked to have more time on track had it not been for the mechanical issue, Deegan was philosophical about how the day played out.

“I’m not mad, I’m gaining experience,” she said. “That’s what I’m here to do.”

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DC Solar founders to plead guilty to charges related to $1 billion Ponzi scheme

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Thirteen months after the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service raided the headquarters of DC Solar and the home of its founders, Jeff and Paulette Carpoff, the couple has entered plea agreements related to a $1 billion Ponzi scheme, the impact of which saw Chip Ganassi Racing close its Xfinity Series program in 2019.

Jeff Carpoff has agreed to plead guilty to one count each of wire fraud and money laundering while Paulette Carpoff will plead guilty to one count each of conspiracy and money laundering.

According to the plea agreements filed with the Eastern District of California, the government will recommend an initial sentence of 30 years in prison for Jeff Carpoff and 15 years for Paulette Carpoff prior to any co-operation they provide with the case.

The agreement outlines a Ponzi scheme that operated from March 2011 to December 2018, ending with the raids on the Carpoff’s residence in Martinez, California, and DC Solar’s headquarters in Benicia, California.

DC Solar was a company that built and leased solar energy equipment and also sponsored Chip Ganassi Racing in the Cup and Xfinity Series. It was the primary or co-primary sponsor for Kyle Larson in 16 Cup races and for three races with Jamie McMurray in 2018. It also sponsored 10 Xfinity races with Ganassi and announced in November 2018 it would sponsor Ross Chastain’s full-time ride in 2019.

It also sponsored Xfinity Series races in 2018 at Phoenix Raceway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway and the infield “FanGrounds” at Richmond Raceway.

In the wake of the raids and the company filing for bankruptcy in January 2019, CGR was forced to close its Xfinity operation.

During the nearly eight-year scheme, the plea agreement says the Carpoffs used the money generated from it to buy their NASCAR sponsorships, 150 luxury and collectible vehicles and luxury real estate in Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas, the Caribbean and Mexico.

They also purchased a suite at a professional football stadium, a subscription private jet service, the Martinez (California) Clippers minor league baseball team and a 2018 performance by an internationally known rapper at a company holiday party.

Funds were also used to make illicit payments to their co-conspirators and others.

As part of their respective plea agreements, the Carpoffs have agreed to pay restitution to their victims, totaling between $800 million and $1.6 billion.

Jim France bullish on the future: ‘We’re getting some momentum back’

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In a rare interview Friday, NASCAR CEO and chairman Jim France said he’s bullish about the momentum of his racing series, particularly since last year’s ISC merger.

“Very much so,” France said when asked if he’s looking forward to the return of stock cars to Daytona International Speedway next month for Speedweeks. The Daytona 500 will kick off the Cup Series season Feb. 16.

“We’re coming off of a very good year I felt like last year where we’re really getting some momentum back,” France said. “It’s exciting now going into this coming year.”

Much of the focus has been on the discussions around a possible revamping of the 2021 schedule.

“(NASCAR President) Steve Phelps is working diligently on that,” France said with a laugh. “There’ll be announcements coming in the not-too-distant future.”

France said last year’s merger of NASCAR and International Speedway Corp., which had been publicly traded before the deal, provides more flexibility on the schedule.

“It makes a big difference,” he said. “It gives us an opportunity to respond quicker to the changing environment out here with the economy and all the things that are going on that impact motorsports. It was a major big step that we needed to make probably for quite a while.”

France spoke with a small group of reporters after a major news conference at Daytona involving the IMSA Series that will create a bridge for the premier sports car classes at Daytona and Le Mans.

“The way I view it is if you ever catch the Ferrari vs. Ford movie where the cars went back and forth with Le Mans, that’s the era that we’re getting ready to enter into here is my optimistic hope,” said France, who is also the chairman of IMSA.

Kaz Grala returning to Richard Childress Racing for select Xfinity races

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Kaz Grala will return to compete for Richard Childress Racing in the Xfinity Series this year in select races, the team announced Friday.

Grala, 21, will be one of three drivers to pilot the No. 21 Chevrolet during the full season, joining Myatt Snider and Anthony Alfredo.

Grala made five starts in the No. 21 in 2019, earning a best result of fifth at Road America.

“I learned a lot as a driver working with RCR last year, so I feel confident that our existing chemistry as a team will lead to even better results in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this season,” Grala said in a press release. “RCR’s Xfinity Series program is top-notch, and with the No. 21 car running all year, I am excited to be a part of the team chasing yet another owner’s championship. I’m very grateful to Richard Childress for giving me this opportunity to further my career.”

No sponsors were part of the announcement.

“Kaz showed quite a bit of speed and promise in the No. 21 car last year for RCR,” Richard Childress said in a press release. “I’m confident the results will show in 2020, especially after a year under his belt in our proven Xfinity program.”