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James Small named Martin Truex Jr.’s crew chief

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When Martin Truex Jr. greets his crew chief every morning, don’t be surprised if he starts off by saying “G’day, mate.”

One week after Cole Pearn announced he was leaving Joe Gibbs Racing as crew chief on Truex’s No. 19 Toyota Camry, the organization announced Thursday that Melbourne, Australia native James Small has been promoted from Truex’s lead engineer to Pearn’s replacement as crew chief.

Small, 36, is no stranger to Truex, Pearn or the No. 19 team as a whole, having served in various capacities the past three seasons with Truex, dating back to Truex’s last two seasons with Furniture Row Racing in the No. 78 (2017-2018).

When Truex, Pearn and the team moved from the now-defunct FRR to Joe Gibbs Racing for the 2019 season, Small came along and was elevated to lead engineer, helping Truex to a series-best seven wins, as well as 15 top-five and 24 top-10 finishes.

Truex finished second to JGR teammate Kyle Busch in the final season standings. After Pearn’s departure, Truex discussed what he was looking for in a new crew chief. He apparently has found that with Small’s ascension to that role.

“This is an incredible opportunity,” Small said in a JGR media release. “Having the confidence of Coach (team owner Joe Gibbs), Martin and everyone at JGR means a lot to me.

“I moved to the United States six years ago to work in NASCAR and I wanted to work my way up to become a crew chief. I’m ready for this and I am excited about working with Martin and the foundation we have in place on the 19 team with the group of guys we have.”

Truex took to Twitter to talk about Small’s promotion and his hopes for how the pair will fare in the upcoming 2020 season.

Truex also said in a media release, “I know James well and feel very comfortable with him. I feel like we approach racing very similar. He and Cole (Pearn) have a lot of similarities. It’s a natural fit and I’m really excited about it. I think he’ll do a great job.”

While this will be Small’s first time as a full-time Cup crew chief, he previously filled in for two races as crew chief for Erik Jones in the latter’s Cup rookie season in 2017 with Furniture Row Racing.

Small displayed his prowess atop the pit box almost immediately, leading Jones to a third-place finish at Michigan International Speedway and a 10th-place finish at Watkins Glen International.

Small spent that entire 2017 season as Jones’ lead engineer with the No. 77 team before moving to Truex’s team in 2018.

Prior to coming to the U.S. and NASCAR, Small spent eight years working in his native Australia in the V8 Supercars Championship. His first role in NASCAR was in an engineering role from 2014-2016 with Richard Childress Racing.

Later Thursday afternoon, Small was a guest on SiriusXM Speedway with Dave Moody on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Here’s a tweet of some of his comments:

Joe Gibbs Racing also announced that Jeff Curtis has joined the organization and will assume Small’s former role as lead engineer for Truex’s car. In addition, the team also announced Blake Harris will return as car chief for the No. 19.

Pearn also tweeted about Small’s promotion:

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William Byron out of Daytona 500 after wreck

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William Byron is the first driver out of the Daytona 500 following a wreck late in Stage 1.

Byron, who won his qualifying race last week, wrecked with seven laps left in the stage after he received a push from pole-sitter Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Byron slid through the backstretch grass before hitting the inside wall nose-first.

Byron was running in the top five with all three of his Hendrick Motorsports teammates when the incident occurred.

“He was kind moving when he hit me first,” Byron told Fox. “So he pushed me left with him. Then he hit me off center in the left rear and just turned me around. … It’s unfortunate. I feel like there’s really no reason, it’s Lap 45 or whatever it was, to be that aggressive moving across my bumper.”

Byron doesn’t leave Daytona empty-handed as he has 10 points from his qualifying race win.

Former NASCAR Chairman Brian France defends leadership style in interview

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Former NASCAR Chairman Brian France defended his leadership style when running the stock-car series and said in an interview with Sports Business Journal that he was working on leaving the sport before he was ousted after his DWI arrest in August 2018.

The interview with Sports Business Journal marked France’s first public comments since his arrest.

France became NASCAR Chairman and Chief Executive Officer in September 2003, assuming the position from his father, Bill France Jr.

Brian France held that position until Aug. 6, 2018, when he took a leave of absence after his arrest for driving while intoxicated in Sag Harbor, New York. He was replaced by Jim France and did not return to NASCAR.

Brian France pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated in June 2019. As part of the agreement, he was required to complete 100 hours of community service and undergo alcohol counseling. If he completes those and does not run afoul of the law, his misdemeanor charge will be reduced to a non-criminal infraction in June 2020.

France told Sports Business Journal that he was actively talking to and identifying potential replacements before his arrest but did not go into detail.

France, who oversaw the TV deal with NBC and Fox that goes through 2024 and created the Chase/playoff format, defended his absence from the track during his reign. France did not attend every race and that became an issue in the garage, raising questions about how involved he was with the sport.

“I understand that kind of criticism, but there is no other sports league that gets any criticism like that,” France told Sports Business Journal of the time he spent at the track. “I’ve always found that a bit interesting that no one else asks another commissioner how many football games or practices he made.”

Jim France is at the track nearly every weekend. Brian France told Sports Business Journal that while his uncle attends more races to match his objective, “(it) didn’t match up with mine, so I had to take the criticism on my way to managing the commercial side.”

France, who endorsed Donald Trump for president at a Feb. 29, 2016 rally at Valdosta State University in Georgia, accompanied President Trump on Air Force One to Daytona International Speedway on Sunday, according to the pool media report.

Monday’s Daytona 500: Restart time, weather and more

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Let’s try this again.

After rain postponed Sunday’s race, Cup drivers will get back on track Monday at Daytona International Speedway to complete the Daytona 500. And the forecast looks very good for Monday’s race.

The race was halted after 20 of 180 laps with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. leading.

Here are today’s details:

(All times are Eastern)

RESTART: Command to fire engines at 4:02 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:12 p.m. 

DISTANCE: 180 of the scheduled 200 laps remain to be run on the 2.5-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 65. Stage 2 ends on Lap 130.

TV/RADIO: Fox’s broadcast begins at 4 p.m. Motor Racing Network’s broadcast begins at 4 p.m. and also can be heard on mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry MRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with a high of 73 degrees and a 3% chance of rain when the race resumes.

RUNNING ORDER:

  1. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  2. Joey Logano
  3. Aric Almirola
  4. Ryan Newman
  5. Kevin Harvick
  6. Brad Keselowski
  7. William Byron
  8. Jimmie Johnson
  9. Ty Dillon
  10. Timmy Hill
  11. David Ragan
  12. Chris Buescher
  13. Matt DiBenedetto
  14. Chase Elliott
  15. Ross Chastain
  16. Alex Bowman
  17. Kyle Larson
  18. Kurt Busch
  19. Austin Dillon
  20. Cole Custer
  21. Michael McDowell
  22. Tyler Reddick
  23. Ryan Blaney
  24. Bubba Wallace
  25. Reed Sorenson
  26. BJ McLeod
  27. Corey LaJoie
  28. Brendan Gaughan
  29. Ryan Preece
  30. Justin Haley
  31. Martin Truex Jr.
  32. Kyle Busch
  33. Erik Jones
  34. Christopher Bell
  35. Denny Hamlin
  36. Clint Bowyer
  37. John Hunter Nemechek
  38. Quin Houff
  39. Joey Gase
  40. Brennan Poole

Daytona 500 postponed to Monday

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The Daytona 500 has been postponed until Monday, NASCAR announced Sunday evening.

The race is scheduled to take the green flag at 4:05 p.m. ET Monday. The garage will open at 1:30 p.m. The race will air on Fox.

The wunderground.com forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with a high of 72 degrees and an 11% chance of rain when the race is scheduled to resume.

The race was scheduled to take the green flag Sunday at 3:18 p.m. ET but that was pushed back because of President Donald Trump’s participation in ceremonies before the race. He gave the command to start engines and his motorcade led the field on a pace lap. An extra pace lap was done to honor Jimmie Johnson, who is making his final Daytona 500 start.

As the field was set to take the green flag at 3:29 p.m. ET, rain in Turns 1 and 2 prevented the start. Rain fell throughout the track and led to a 51-minute delay.

When the race resumed, the field completed 20 laps before rain led to a caution at 4:36 p.m. ET. The field again was brought to pit road and the race was stopped. NASCAR told teams they could uncover cars on pit road at 6:18 p.m. ET but almost immediately there were reports of rain drops around the track. Drivers were called to their cars but never got in them. It began to pour around 6:44 p.m. ET. The race was called at 6:50 p.m. ET

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. led the opening 20 laps. He is followed by Joey Logano, Aric Almirola, Ryan Newman and Kevin Harvick.

Sixth through 10th is Brad Keselowski, William Byron, Jimmie Johnson, Ty Dillon and Timmy Hill.

This is the second time the Daytona 500 has been postponed by rain. It happened in 2012.