Brad Keselowski joins Roush Fenway Racing as driver/owner for 2022

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Former Cup champion Brad Keselowski will join the ownership group of Roush Fenway Racing and drive the No. 6 car in 2022, the team announced Tuesday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The 37-year-old Keselowski, who won the 2012 series title,  joins the next generation of Cup team owners who are racing or have raced in NASCAR’s premier series. That includes 40-year-old Justin Marks (Trackhouse Racing), 40-year-old Denny Hamlin (23XI Racing), 25-year-old Matt Tifft (Live Fast Motorsports) and 37-year-old B.J. McLeod (Live Fast Motorsports).

“This solidifies and fortifies our future,” Steve Newmark, president of Roush Fenway Racing, said of adding Keselowski as a driver/owner and key person in the team’s competition department.

Newmark said Keselowski will purchase a minority stake in the team.

“It’s a big dream of mine to be an owner and partner at the NASCAR level,” Keselowski said Tuesday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame and an audience that included NASCAR CEO and Chairman Jim France.

“I’ve been studying my whole life for this moment and I’m ready for the test.”

Keselowski said four key reasons led to this “no-brainer to take this opportunity.” He liked the long-term contract to drive and make this team his home for the rest of his driving career. He liked the opportunity to play a key role in the competition department. Ownership has been important for him and it provides something for him to remain a key element in the sport when his driving career is finished.

“I feel like I’m buying into a stock that is about to go up,” Keselowski said Tuesday.

Keselowski joins a Roush Fenway Racing organization that has won two Cup titles (Matt Kenseth in 2003 and Kurt Busch in 2004) and 137 Cup races but none since 2017.

“Our expectation is he is going to come in and inject new ideas and new thoughts and bring new innovations to us,” Newmark said of Keselowski.

Roush Fenway Racing last won a Cup race in July 2017. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. scored that victory, his second of the season. Both Roush drivers this season, Ryan Newman and Chris Buescher, are outside a playoff spot with four races left in the regular season. Newman and Buescher each missed the playoffs last year.

Newmark said Roush Fenway Racing will remain a two-car operation. Newmark said he’s talked to Newman, current driver of the No. 6 car, about the possibility of a part-time role. He said that Newman is still figuring out his plans for next year.

Roush Racing debuted in 1988, started by Jack Roush. The 79-year-old NASCAR Hall of Famer sold half the organization in 2007 to Fenway Sports Group, which operates the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool FC, and is owned by John Henry. The Cup team has been known as Roush Fenway Racing since the deal was completed.

Roush said Tuesday he is not retiring and plans to continue to go to the track but noted the succession plan that Keselowski provides.

Keselowski owned a Truck Series team from 2008-17, serving as the starting point in the NASCAR ladder for young drivers in the Ford chain. Among those who drove for him were Ryan Blaney, Ross Chastain, Tyler Reddick, Daniel Hemric, Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric.

Shortly after announcing that the team would not continue after the 2017 season, Keselowski reaffirmed his desire to be a team owner.

“I want to be positioned to have the best opportunities possible when I get done being a race car driver, and one of those opportunities is to be a team owner,” Keselowski said in August 2017. “For that to have any chance of being successful, it’s going to be critical for me to have all of my ducks in a row specific to having other income-generating businesses.”

He has that with Keselowski Advanced Manufacturing, a state-of-the-art 3D printing company. The company is housed in the 70,000-square foot building that once was home to Keselowski’s Truck team. That company helped provide the foundation for Keselowski to leave Team Penske after this season for this opportunity.

“If you look at all the business owners at this level – and really all three of these levels – they have a sustainable, profitable business outside of motorsports and that’s going to remain the key for any owner to have success because the reality is I can only be a race car driver for so long,” Keselowski said in August 2017.

“When that time comes up, my business would have had to shut down because I don’t have a profit center, and having that profit center is what helps you get through the ebbs and flows that every race team has, so I need to have one of those profit centers. That doesn’t mean that I’ll be a Cup owner one day, but that means when the time is right if we achieve the goals that I have, I’ll have the opportunity to make that decision myself and not have it made for me.”

Keselowski won the 2010 Xfinity title and 2012 Cup title for Team Penske. He has one Cup victory this season. Keselowski has won at least three races in the five preceding seasons. He has 34 Cup wins and 33 Xfinity victories for Team Penske.

“He brought some tremendous credibility,” team owner Roger Penske said last week about what Keselowski has meant to Team Penske. “Think about it. He’s the winningest driver we’ve had in the company. He gave us a championship and the leadership on the Xfinity side early on and it really helped us build Discount Tire. 

“I would say that’s a real byproduct of Brad’s commitment to them as a sponsor. Forget what he did on the racetrack. I look at that as key. His working with sponsors, and I think, technically, he really got into the details. 

“Then he had his own team, and I think he learned a little bit about being a team owner, and that even made him a better driver and things we could do to help support the team. So I see him as a broad placed brush across the whole organization — sponsorship, delivering on the racetrack. I think he’s a high integrity guy, which is very important with us and he helped us maintain a sponsor base.”

Sammy Smith to run full Xfinity season for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2023

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Sammy Smith will run the full Xfinity schedule in the No. 18 car, Joe Gibbs Racing announced Monday.

The 18-year-old Smith, a Toyota development driver, won the ARCA Menards Series East title for a second consecutive year in 2022 and also made nine Xfinity starts with JGR.

Pilot Flying J, TMC Transportation and Allstate Peterbilt will be sponsors on Smith’s car throughout the 2023 season. Jeff Meendering will be Smith’s crew chief.

“This is an opportunity I have been working towards,” Smith said in a statement from the team. “I can’t wait to get behind the wheel full-time and am looking forward to a great season. I learned a lot in 2022 that will really help me to be competitive and run up front in the Xfinity Series. Thank you to Pilot Flying J, TMC Transportation, Allstate Peterbilt Group, and Toyota Racing Development for supporting me in my racing career. I am excited for next year and appreciate the opportunity.”

Said Steve DeSouza, JGR executive vice president of Xfinity Series and driver development, in a statement: “Sammy is a fantastic addition to our 2023 Xfinity lineup. He proved to have the passion and the talent to necessary to compete for wins in the races he ran for us in 2022,” .“We are excited to get him in the No. 18 full time and know he will be competitive from the jump.”

NASCAR Power Rankings: Racing through the numbers

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Some drivers carry one car number throughout their racing careers. The most famous racers in NASCAR’s 75-year history typically are associated with one number, although some have raced under several.

Victories, championships and driver personalities give life to something as generally mundane as a number. And the most popular produce even bigger numbers, as in sales of T-shirts, caps and other souvenirs.

Here’s a look at 10 of the most iconic NASCAR numbers:

NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

1. 43 — Since Richard Petty’s emergence as a superstar in the 1960s, the number 43 has been NASCAR’s most iconic. Although Lee Petty, Richard’s father, usually drove No. 42, he actually scored the first win by the 43, in 1959. The Petty blue No. 43 carried Richard to a string of championships. He scored 192 of his 200 race wins with the number. It rolls on today with Erik Jones, who took the 43 to the Southern 500 victory lane this season.

2. 3 — The fiercely facing forward No. 3 became ultra-famous while driven by seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt (although Earnhardt won his first title driving the No. 2). Earnhardt’s black Chevrolet carried the number to new heights, but Fireball Roberts, David Pearson, Junior Johnson, Buck Baker, Buddy Baker and Ricky Rudd, among others, also won in the car.

MORE: Where are they now? Buddy Parrott

3. 21 — The list of drivers who have raced Wood Brothers Racing’s famous No. 21, with the familiar gold foil numbers, reads like a history of NASCAR. David Pearson brought the most fame to the number, but Tim Flock, Curtis Turner, team owner Glen Wood, Cale Yarborough, A.J. Foyt, Donnie Allison, Neil Bonnett and Dale Jarrett also have driven the 21.

4. 11 — This number is responsible for more race wins — 228 — than any other. It also has scored eight championships — three each by Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough and two by Ned Jarrett. Other stars in the 11 over the years: Junior Johnson, Bobby Allison, A.J. Foyt, Terry Labonte, Geoffrey Bodine, Bill Elliott and Denny Hamlin. And some guy named Mario Andretti.

5. 48 — This number was largely ignored until the arrival of Jimmie Johnson, who carried it to seven championships, including five in a row.

6. 24 — The number 24 was a lonely number until 1994 when a kid named Jeff Gordon drove it to its first win, in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The brightly colored 24 became a regular visitor to victory lane from that point forward, carrying Gordon to four championships and becoming one of NASCAR’s most decorated numbers.

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7. 18 — Although Dale Jarrett and Bobby Labonte won in the 18, Kyle Busch, draped in the bright colors of sponsor M&Ms, took it into new territory.

8. 22 — NASCAR’s first Cup champion (Red Byron) and its most recent (Joey Logano) rode with the 22. The number has produced 87 wins over the years, including victories by Fireball Roberts, Bobby Allison, Ward Burton, Kurt Busch, Byron and Logano.

9. 2 — Although the 2 carried Dale Earnhardt (1980) and Brad Keselowski (2012) to Cup championships, it is perhaps most identified with Rusty Wallace, whose menacing black No. 2 was powerful at Team Penske. Also successful in the 2: Bill Blair, Kurt Busch and Austin Cindric, this year’s Daytona 500 winner.

10. 9 — The 9 was basically nondescript until Bill Elliott roared out of the north Georgia mountains to turn it into a big winner in the mid-1980s. His son, Chase, continues the trend.

 

 

Truck Series: Rajah Caruth joins GMS Racing

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Rajah Caruth will drive the No. 24 truck full-time for GMS Racing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2023, the team announced Tuesday.

The 20-year-old Caruth ran a full season in the ARCA Menards Series last year, placing third in points. He also made seven Xfinity starts and four Truck starts last year. 

“I am extremely honored, and really excited to join GMS Racing and be in the fold of a professional race team with so much history,” Caruth said in a statement from the team. “I’ve been waiting for an opportunity like this throughout my whole career, and I’m going to do the best in my power to make the most of it.

“First and foremost, I can’t thank everybody at GMS enough for believing in me and believing that I have what it takes to drive one of their trucks. Same goes for everybody at Chevrolet for their support, we truly wouldn’t be able to make this happen without them. 

Caruth joins Grant Enfinger and Daniel Dye as GMS Racing’s full-time Craftsman Truck Series drivers. Chad Walter will be Caruth’s crew chief. Jeff Hensley will be Enfinger’s crew chief. Travis Sharpe will be Dye’s crew chief. 

The primary partner on Caruth’s truck will be the Wendell Scott Foundation. The foundation, named for the first Black driver to win a NASCAR Cup race, seeks to provide resources and services to underprivileged Black youth communities near Scott’s hometown of Danville, Virginia. Since the foundation’s formation in 2011, more than 25 students have been awarded more than $50,000 from the Wendell Scott Legacy Scholarship programs.

“We are excited for Rajah to compete full-time with GMS Racing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2023,” said Dayne Pierantoni, GM Racing Program Manager for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. “Through Chevrolet’s partnership with Rev Racing, we have been impressed with Rajah’s talent both on and off the track. He has proven his ability to compete at the NASCAR national level, and we look forward to seeing his continued success with a series championship winning team.”

The Truck season begins Feb. 17 at Daytona International Speedway. 

In other Truck Series news:

Dean Thompson will drive the No. 5 for TRICON Garage this coming season. The 21-year-old was a rookie in the series this past season. He had a season-best finish of 11th at Las Vegas.

“I am thrilled to start the next chapter of my career with TRICON Garage and Toyota Racing Development,” Thompson said in a statement from the team. “The team and manufacturer have quickly made a statement in the Truck Series as striving to be the best of the best. I’m ready to take on the challenge and live up to the expectations of being a driver for TRICON.”

McAnally Hilgemann Racing announced Tuesday that Christian Eckes and Jake Garcia will drive full-time in the Truck series for the team next season.

Eckes, who will drive the No. 19 truck, moves over from ThorSport Racing. Garcia will drive the No. 35 truck in pursuit of the series Rookie of the Year award.

NAPA AutoCare will continue as a team sponsor.

Garcia is 17 and is scheduled to make his first start March 3 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Because of NASCAR’s age restrictions, he will miss the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. The team’s Daytona driver has not been announced.

Sponsor adds more races in 2023 with Josh Berry

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Jarrett Companies will increase the number of races it will sponsor Josh Berry‘s No. 8 JR Motorsports ride in 2023, the Xfinity Series team announced Monday.

Jarrett Companies will sponsor Berry in six races after serving as the primary sponsor in three races in 2022. Those six races will be Phoenix (March 11), Richmond (April 1), Dover (April 29), Atlanta (July 8), Indianapolis (Aug. 12) and Texas (Sept. 23).

The deal gives Berry at least 26 races with sponsorship for next season. Bass Pro Shops will serve as the primary sponsor of Berry’s car in 11 races in 2023. Tire Pros is back with JRM and will sponsor Berry in nine races in the upcoming season.

Berry, who reached the Xfinity title race and finished fourth in the points, will have a new crew chief in 2023. Taylor Moyer will take over that role with Mike Bumgarner serving as JRM’s director of competition.

The 2023 Xfinity season begins Feb. 18 at Daytona International Speedway.