Cole Custer dominates for fourth Xfinity win of season

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JOLIET, Illinois – Cole Custer had one of the most dominant performances of his career, leading 151 of 200 laps to win Saturday’s Camping World 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Chicagoland Speedway.

Having previously won this season at Fontana, Richmond and Pocono, Custer joins Christopher Bell as the only two drivers to earn four NASCAR Xfinity Series victories apiece thus far this season.

Awesome car, I don’t know how it could have been any better,” Custer told crew chief Mike Shiplett over the team radio after grabbing the checkered flag.

The 21-year-old Custer held off a strong challenge in the closing laps from pole sitter Joey Logano – making his first Xfinity start of the year – and Bell to earn the sixth win of his Xfinity Series career (in 86 starts).

“This is a great track, I’ve wanted to win here for a long time,” Custer said. “You can see we’ve been getting better and better over the year. … It means a lot.”

Bell, who finished third, was disqualified about an hour after the checkered flag fell when his car was found to be too low in post-race inspection. He becomes the second driver to be disqualified in a NASCAR race in the last 13 days (Ross Chastain was DQ’d after winning the Trucks race at Iowa on June 16, also for the front end of his truck being too low).

Before Bell’s disqualification, Custer was asked about beating his two top challengers in the series, Bell and Tyler Reddick. “The three of us are racing for wins every weekend,” Custer said. “I think we will continue to get better throughout this summer stretch and have something to look out for.”

Logano finished second, followed by Michael Annett, Brandon Jones and Austin Cidric. Sixth through 10th were Noah Gragson (highest-finishing rookie), Justin Haley, Ross Chastain, Reddick and Riley Herbst.

Race results: Click here

Xfinity standings: Click here

Logano paid Custer a big compliment, saying, “He did good. It’s funny when you come down to the next level down and see the next up-and-coming talent, he’s ready for it (NASCAR Cup), I can say that much.”

BJ McLeod hit the wall on Lap 173, bringing out the caution, leading several drivers to pit for tires and a final tank of gas. On the ensuing restart on Lap 179, Custer dove to the bottom of the track and easily went from fourth to first and set sail the remainder of the way for the victory.

Several drivers were penalized prior to the race and dropped to the back of the field for the green flag: The No. 98 (Chase Briscoe) and No. 78 (Vinnie Miller) for unapproved adjustments, the No. 28 (Shane Lee) for an engine change, the No. 17 (Josh Bilicki) for a driver change (the team had not listed a driver name on the original entry list), the No. 38 (Jeff Green) for missing the driver/crew chief meeting and the No. 42 (Chad Finchum) for crew chief (Brian Keselowski) missing the driver/crew chief meeting.

Stage 1 winner: Cole Custer (6th stage win of season)

Stage 2 winner: Joey Logano

Who had a good race: Cole Custer put on a driving clinic with his performance. He went high when he needed to and also dropped low, essentially using virtually every inch of the track he needed. While so much has been said about Christopher Bell this season, if Saturday’s performance is a good indicator, keep your eyes on Custer as a potential Xfinity champion.

Who had a bad race: Illinois native Justin Allgaier had a rough day. He had a solo spin on Lap 11 while running third, was forced into the wall on Lap 116 after Jeffrey Earnhardt got loose and washed up the racetrack in front of Allgaier, and then hit the wall hard on Lap 129. He immediately took his car to the garage, his day over. “Just bummed to be here,” Allgaier told NBCSN after being checked at the infield care center. “It was a rough day … a very disappointing day.”

Notable: Joey Logano drove like he’s been competing all season in the Xfinity Series, even though this was his first start of the season in NASCAR’s junior league. Logano started from the pole and had the second-best car on track, but didn’t have quite enough to overtake Custer.

Next race: Circle K Firecracker 250; Friday July 5 at 7:30 p.m. ET; Daytona International Speedway (NBCSN, Motor Racing Network/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

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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.”