Bill McAnally Racing

Bill McAnally Racing names 2020 ARCA Menards West driver lineup

Leave a comment

Bill McAnally Racing on Tuesday announced its 2020 roster of drivers in the ARCA Menards West Series.

The roster includes two male and two female drivers: Giovanni “Gio” Scelzi, Jesse Love, Gracie Trotter and Holley Hollan.

Plans call for all four drivers, who are also part of Toyota’s driver development program, to run the full schedule in the ARCA Series West, along with other additional select ARCA races. In addition to each driver running for the West championship, they will all also contend for the West Rookie of the Year award.

There will also be bragging rights on the line, as the next race winner for BMR will give the organization its 100th career win between the ARCA Menards Series West and East divisions (formerly NASCAR K&N Pro Series West and East).

“We’re very enthusiastic about our lineup of drivers for the 2020 season,” McAnally said in a media release. “We anticipate plenty of excitement from this talented roster of newcomers to the series. We see great potential in each of them.”

Here’s a breakdown of each of McAnally’s four newest drivers:

* Gio Scelzi, 18, of Fresno, California, will drive the No. 16 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Records Toyota Camry. Son of four-time NHRA drag racing champion Gary Scelzi, the younger Scelzi is competing this week in his second Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma. … Scelzi has been a rising star in sprint and midget cars on dirt the last three years. He shifts to pavement racing with BMR this season, but also expects to continue racing sprints and midgets as well. Began racing Junior Micro Sprints at the age of 6. Made transition to full-sized sprint cars in 2016. Became the youngest race winner in World of Outlaws history in 2018, and also the youngest winner at Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway in the All Star Circuit of Champions race. Also won his first-ever start on pavement in a late model race at Irwindale Speedway outside Los Angeles last year.

* Jesse Love, 15, from Menlo Park, Calif. Will drive the No. 19 NAPA Power Premium Plus Toyota Camry for BMR. Started racing quarter midgets at 5 years old. Has won multiple track, regional, state and national championships. In 2019, split time between dirt and asphalt racing, including finishing in the top 10 in the SRL Southwest Tour Series and finished runner-up in rookie points.

* Gracie Trotter, 18, of Denver, North Carolina, will drive the No. 99 ENEOS Toyota Camry. The third-generation racer began competing in go-karts at 8 years old. She eventually moved to Legends cars and in 2017 became the first female to win the Young Lions division at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and finished second in points in the 2018 Summer Shootout at CMS. She went on to win the 2019 Winter Heat Series championship and reached Round 5 of the Summer Shootout in the Semi-Pro Division. Began racing super late models in 2017 and in 2019 joined the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Driver Development Program, which she continues to be a part of as a late model driver for Rev Racing.

* Holley Hollan, 18, a fourth-generation racer from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, will drive the No. 50 JBL/NAPA Filters/NAPA Belts & Hoses Toyota Camry. Began racing at the age of 5 in Junior Sprints and up to 600 cc micros at the age of 12. Has been competing in midget cars the last two seasons and finished fifth in the points in the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League in 2019.

Bill McAnally Racing has become one of the top feeder organizations to NASCAR. Past drivers who’ve raced for McAnally include Hailie Deegan (who has moved up to ARCA this season), Cole Custer, Clint Bowyer, Todd Gilliland, Brendan Gaughan and Derek Kraus (who it was announced Monday will drive full-time in the NASCAR Truck Series in a partnership between Bill McAnally and Wisconsin businessman Bill Hilgemann).

McAnally is also the only owner in the NASCAR touring series to have nine championships with a variety of drivers, including four of the last five seasons (2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019). He also enters the 30th consecutive seasons with NAPA sponsorship, one of the longest running sponsorships in motorsports history.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

John Ray, who drove patriotic big rig at Talladega, dies at 82

Photo courtesy Talladega Superspeedway
Leave a comment

One of Talladega Superspeedway’s most endearing and popular figures has passed away.

John “Johnny” Ray, whose diesel big rig carrying an American flag around the 2.66-mile track has been a fixture during the playing of the National Anthem at NASCAR Cup races for the past two decades, has died at the age of 82, the track announced Monday.

Ray began the tradition behind the wheel of his gold, brown and chrome-colored Peterbilt semi-tractor in 2001, with an oversized American flag flowing in the breeze behind the tractor.

The procession quickly became a significant fan favorite, eliciting loud cheers and applause from fans in the stands each time it passed by on the track’s front stretch.

“We just had the 9/11 attacks and Dale (Earnhardt) had also passed away earlier that year,” Ray, who lived down the street from the track in Eastaboga, Alabama, said in an interview three years ago. “I had a crazy idea to run my rig out on the track with an American flag attached to the back. It started off as a tribute to the country and to Dale.

“I never thought it would become the heart-felt moment that it has over the past some-odd years, but I’m glad it has become a tradition that means so much to the fans and the Talladega family. It represents such a sense of pride that we all share together as a nation and as a community. It is my honor and privilege to do it.”

Ray, who started his own trucking company in the early 1970s, and also had a brief NASCAR racing career of his own, ceded driving duties of the big rig several years ago to his late friend, Roger Haynes, and then last year to son Johnny Ray, to continue the tradition.

“National Anthems at Talladega Superspeedway are the most iconic, and it’s because of our great friend John Ray,” Speedway President Brian Crichton said in a media release. “What he brought to our fans can’t be duplicated.

“He was an incredible, passionate man who supported the track and all of motorsports with everything he had. His spirit will live here forever. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Ray family.”

Funeral arrangements for John Ray are pending, according to the track.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Ryan Blaney experienced Kobe Bryant’s ‘Mamba Mentality’ in person

NASCAR Twitter
Leave a comment

CONCORD, N.C. — Kobe Bryant didn’t ask normal questions.

Nearly two years after a 20-minute conversation in the back of a Las Vegas steakhouse, that’s what sticks out to Ryan Blaney about the five-time NBA champion.

Blaney reflected on his encounter with Bryant on Monday, roughly 24 hours after the 41-year-old former Los Angeles Laker was killed in a helicopter crash, along with his 13-year-old daughter and seven others.

MORE: NASCAR community mourns death of Kobe Bryant

The encounter between the Team Penske driver and Bryant came in October 2018 during a convention for Body Armor, a sports drink company Bryant was an investor in that sponsors Blaney in the NASCAR Cup Series.

“We went into a backroom and all of a sudden Kobe Bryant was standing there,” Blaney said during a media event at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “Pretty amazing that he was back there and they let me meet him.”

During their meeting, Blaney gifted Bryant the firesuit that he wore during the race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway earlier that year.

“He was pretty excited about that,” Blaney said. “Just being able to talk to a guy like that for 20 minutes, someone who didn’t really know a lot about racing, but wanted to learn everything about it 20 minutes. Just the way he asked questions, (he) was so interested in it, to me I could see where they call it the ‘Mamba Mentality’ comes from and how he used it in basketball to become so great.

“That was the coolest moment. I don’t get star struck very often. I knew all the answers, but I was getting nervous that I would answer wrong when he was asking me questions he knew nothing about. That’s just his atmosphere.”

Bryant didn’t pepper Blaney with the cliche questions one expects from those uninitiated with auto racing.

“I just didn’t expect the amount of interest he showed, he wanted to learn everything about it,” Blaney said. “It wasn’t like the (how do you use the) bathroom question. It wasn’t ‘do you get dizzy?’ It was technical stuff and shows what kind of amazing, intellectual person that he was. That was something that really tickled me, how excited he was to learn about it.”

Blaney, who said he was a Bryant fan growing up in the ’90s before LeBron James arrived on the scene to play for his home team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, said it was a “shame” he was never able to get Bryant to attend a race weekend.

“For somebody who has inspired so many young boys and girls around the country for decades, the social media stuff the last day and half has been unbelievable to see people who looked up to him growing up. I did too, I ain’t lying, how can you not watch Kobe Bryant when you’re growing up as a kid? A terrible loss. I hate that for his family and the other family involved.”

Bryant didn’t forget about their steakhouse encounter. He later sent Blaney a signed copy of his book, “The Mamba Mentality.”

Blaney keeps it on display on a bookshelf.

“Just really neat,” Blaney said. “You respect other great athletes and people and their work ethic. I think that’s what impressed me the most about him was his work ethic at everything. He’d outwork you at every little bit. You’ve got to respect somebody like that, who will figure out how to beat you and if he can’t do it with talent he’s going to outwork you really hard. I don’t know, it’s just amazing to get a privilege like that. It’s hard to describe.”

Brendan Gaughan to run 4 final Cup races in 2020, including Daytona 500

Photo: Beard Motorsports' Twitter account
Leave a comment

Brendan Gaughan will kick off his 23rd and final season of NASCAR racing in the 62nd Daytona 500 for Beard Motorsports.

Gaughan – who is using the hashtag #NotGaughanYet to symbolize his final season — will drive the No. 62 Chevrolet at Daytona. If he qualifies, it will be his fifth time in the 500 field, with his best finish coming in 2017 when he finished 11th.

The 44-year-old Gaughan is slated to drive four races this season in NASCAR Cup for Beard Motorsports. In addition to the Daytona 500, he’ll also race April 26 at Talladega Superspeedway, August 29 back at Daytona and will make the final start of his racing career on October 4 back at Talladega.

The Las Vegas native has made 12 previous starts for Beard Motorsports, all at either Daytona and Talladega.

“I love racing, and competing with Beard Motorsports these last few years have made for some of my most enjoyable moments in NASCAR,” Gaughan said in a media release. “We do a lot with a little, so when we run up front and lead laps, it’s very satisfying because you know all the work that went into it.”

Last April, Gaughan led five laps at Talladega and gave Beard Motorsports its second top-10 finish in the Cup Series, finishing eighth. Gaughan also finished seventh at Daytona for Beard Motorsports in July 2017.

“I wouldn’t want my last races as a NASCAR driver to be with any other team,” Gaughan said. “(Team owner) Mark Beard Sr., and his entire family are passionate about racing, and NASCAR in particular. We’re all competitive and want to perform, but we’re going to have fun doing it. That’s how we all got started in the sport – because it was fun. And as I wrap up my career, I’m going to make sure it stays fun.”

Gaughan has made 62 prior starts in the Cup Series dating back to his rookie season in 2004, when he earned his best career finish in the series (fourth at Talladega).

He also has made 219 starts in the Xfinity Series with two wins, and 217 starts in the Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series with eight wins.

Gaughan’s effort at Daytona will be in a chassis built by Richard Childress Racing and powered by a motor from ECR Engines. He’ll be sponsored by Beard Oil Distributing, South Point Hotel & Casino and City Lights Shine whiskey moonshine.

He begins his quest to qualify for the 40-car field with Daytona 500 qualifying on February 9. His lap will determine his starting spot in the Feb. 13 Duel – twin 150-mile heat races that set the rest of the field for the Great American Race.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

UniFirst to sponsor Chase Elliott in three Cup Series races this year

Chase Elliott
Hendrick Motorsports
Leave a comment

UniFirst will be a sponsor of Chase Elliott‘s No. 9 Chevrolet in three Cup Series races this year, Hendrick Motorsports announced Monday.

The company will be on Elliott’s car at Phoenix Raceway (March 8), the All-Star Race (May 16) and the playoff race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Sept. 27).

A work clothing and uniform supplier, UniFirst has been a Hendrick Motorsports sponsor since 2016. It sponsored William Byron in four races in 2018 and three last year.

UniFirst also will be featured as an associate sponsor for all races in 2020.