Burton and Cindric enjoy busy offseason of cars, a dog and traveling while team building

Burton Cindric offseason

DAYTONA BEACH, Florida – Amid a whirlwind of cross-country flights and nonstop testing (with some racing), Harrison Burton still wanted a dog heading into his rookie season in the NASCAR Cup Series.

“It’s an interesting experience, and I always was like, ‘Oh it won’t be that hard,’ ” Burton said about Remy, his new Golden Retriever puppy, during a break from the cockpit of a Mustang GT4 at Daytona International Speedway last week. “It’s pretty hard! And (Chase) Briscoe’s got like a kid, and I’m like, ‘Holy cow, that must be really hard!’ You can’t just leave your kid in the pen. I can do that with my puppy, she’ll be all right for a few hours. He must have some serious stuff going on.”

Burton, who turned 21 last October, has a lot going on himself, having barely spent any time at home during the last two weeks of January. The new driver of the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford went directly from a Next Gen test at Daytona to NASCAR Production Days in Charlotte to a Next Gen test in Phoenix Raceway.

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He then caught a redeye to Orlando, so he could practice and qualify for the Michelin Pilot Challenge race last weekend at Daytona. This week, he headed back to the West Coast for the Clash at the Coliseum but with a few more stops on the way this week.

“It’s not overwhelming,” he said. “It’s been really easy just because I’ve got a lot of good people around me. With the puppy at home, I dumped her off with my parents and girlfriend and sister. Everyone helps me so I can do my racing deal. My support system is great. I’ve got a lot of great people around me to help on that side. Obviously, it’s busy.”

Last weekend at Daytona actually offered a slight respite in that he co-drove the Mustang with fellow Cup rookie Austin Cindric, finishing ninth in a four-race at Daytona (which Briscoe also ran with Hailie Deegan).

“It was good to get my mind off everything and focus on being a race car driver and enjoying that,” Burton said. “It’s been fun.”

Cindric, who also raced in the Rolex 24 at Daytona before heading to consecutive Team Penske production days Monday and Tuesday, has been just as busy but also seemed to be holding up well.

“It’s been pretty awesome,” he said after completing his first two stints of the Rolex 24. “I can’t really complain too much. My food intake has replaced my sleep intake. That’ll definitely catch up with me at Penske production day. It’s been a lot of fun, and I don’t think anyone would look at me straight if I complained about the week I’ve had. I wouldn’t trade it.”

The offseason laps have been beneficial for Burton and Cindric as they get acclimated to the Next Gen but also to each other (they actually attended the same high school in the Charlotte area, two years apart).

With Wood Brothers Racing and Team Penske closely aligned for team debriefs and sharing information, Burton also has worked to build a working relationship with Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney, whom he said have “really welcomed me with open arms.”

Sharing the sports car with Cindric and practicing the technique of in-race driver changes also helped improve their rapport.

“Just driving the same car and hearing (Austin) talk about how it drives,” Burton said. “Driver swaps have been a new thing for me. He taught me how to do all that. Stuff like that when you’re kind of forced to learn and talk and work with each other for getting to know him and him getting to know me well.

“Anytime you’re new to a team, getting to know the people you work with is a big deal and being able to use those people as a resource. You get a new colleague, it’s always what does this person do well, how can we help each other be better. That’s been a good thing for sure.”

Helio Castroneves rules out Daytona 500

Helio Castroneves Daytona 500
Robert Scheer/Indy Star/USA TODAY NETWORK

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Helio Castroneves might be at the 2023 Daytona 500, but the four-time Indy 500 winner won’t be in a race car.

During a news conference Thursday at Daytona International Speedway, Castroneves confirmed in response to a question from NBC Sports that he essentially has ruled out attempting to make his NASCAR Cup Series debut in the Feb. 19 season opener.

As recently as last Thursday at Rolex 24 Media Day, Castroneves, 47, said he still was working on trying to piece together a deal.

The Brazilian had been negotiating with the Cup team co-owned by boxer Floyd Mayweather and would have been in an “open” entry that lacked guaranteed entry to the Great American Race. That potentially would leave him in the precarious position of needing to make the race on qualifying speed or a qualifying race finish (as action sports star Travis Pastrana likely might need in his Cup debut).

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“Unfortunately for me, lack of experience, no testing,” Castroneves said. “A lot of things. I believe it would be a little bit tough throwing myself in such a short notice, and to go in a place that you’ve got to race yourself into it. So as of right now, yes, it’s not going to happen.

“But we did have an opportunity. We just got to elaborate a little bit more to give me a little more experience on that. So there is more things to come ahead of us, but as of right now, I want to focus on the IndyCar program as well and (the Rolex 24 at Daytona).”

Castroneves, who has a residence in Key Biscayne, said he still might attend the Daytona 500

“I might just come and see and watch it and continue to take a look and see what’s going to be in the future,” he said.

Castroneves enters Saturday’s Rolex 24 at Daytona having won the event the past two years. He made his signature fence-climb after winning last year with Meyer Shank Racing, which he will be driving for full time in the NTT IndyCar Series this year. He became the fourth four-time Indy 500 winner in history in his 2021 debut with Meyer Shank Racing.

The 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar champion also has indicated an interest in Trackhouse Racing’s Project 91 car that aims to place international drivers in a Cup ride (such as Kimi Raikkonen at Watkins Glen International last year). Team co-owner Justin Marks recently tweeted Trackhouse wouldn’t field the Project 91 car at the Daytona 500.

After winning the 2022 Superstar Racing Experience opener, SRX CEO Don Hawk had promised he would help secure a Daytona 500 ride for Castroneves.

Castroneves has been angling for a NASCAR ride for years, dating to when he drove for Team Penske from 2000-20. After winning the Rolex 24 last year, he said he had been lobbying Ray Evernham and Tony Stewart for help with getting in a Cup car.

Though Castroneves is out, Sports Business Journal’s Adam Stern reported that Mayweather’s The Money Team Racing still is considering IndyCar driver Conor Daly for its seat.

Fire at Reaume Brothers Racing shop injures three


A Thursday fire at the Reaume Brothers Racing shop in Mooresville, North Carolina, injured three individuals, according to Mooresville (North Carolina) Fire-Rescue.

Firefighters were dispatched to the shop, which is scheduled to field entries for driver Mason Massey in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series this season, at about 11:30 a.m. Thursday.

The fire department extinguished the blaze quickly. The department stated on its Facebook page that one individual was transported to Lake Norman Regional hospital for smoke inhalation, and another was transported to Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem, N.C. with burn injuries. A third was treated and released.

The team stated Thursday night on social media that Taylor Collier and Devin Fokin had been treated and released. The team stated that Taylor was treated for smoke inhalation and Fokin was treated “for serious burns.”

The Mooresville Fire Marshall’s office is investigating the cause of the fire. The fire department said the shop sustained “significant fire damage.”

In a tweet, the team said it is determining the extent of damage to the building. “More importantly,” it said, “a few of our team members did sustain injuries during the fire and are being transported for medical treatment.”


Trackhouse, RFK Racing, Front Row Motorsports sign sponsorship deals


Trackhouse Racing, RFK Racing and Front Row Motorsports announced sponsorship deals Thursday morning.

Trackhouse said WWEX, a Dallas-based global logistics group, will increase its sponsorship presence with the team this year, serving as the primary sponsor in 21 races for drivers Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez.

WWEX will appear on Chastain’s Chevrolets in 19 races and will sponsor Suarez twice. The organization was a Trackhouse sponsor in 11 events in 2022, which was a breakout season for both Chastain and Suarez.

RFK announced that Solomon Plumbing, which joined the team last season, will expand its presence this season and in future years. The Michigan-based company will serve as the primary sponsor for several races on driver Brad Keselowski‘s No. 6 Ford.

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Solomon specializes in plumbing and fire services for new development and construction. It initially sponsored Keselowski last season in the dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Front Row Motorsports has signed Quincy Compressor, a Bay Minette, Ala.-based compressor manufacturer, as a sponsor for four races.

Quincy will sponsor Todd Gilliland‘s No. 38 team in three events and Michael McDowell‘s No. 34 team in one race.



Stewart-Haas Racing signs Chase Briscoe to contract extension


Chase Briscoe has signed a multiyear contract extension to remain at Stewart-Haas Racing, the team announced Thursday.

The length of the deal was not announced.

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Briscoe is entering his third Cup season with the team. He won his first series race last year, taking the checkered flag at Phoenix last March. That victory put him in the playoffs. He finished the season ninth in the standings. 

“It’s huge to have stability, with my team and my partner,” Briscoe said in a statement from the team. “It just gives you more confidence. Stewart-Haas Racing is where I want to be for a long time. It’s the place I’ve known longer than anywhere else in my NASCAR career.

“I remember getting signed by Ford in 2017 and I told people, ‘You know, if I could pick one place to be, it would be Stewart- Haas Racing. And if I could drive one car, it would be the 14 car. That would be the ultimate dream.’ And now, here I am.

“SHR has such a great group of people, from the Xfinity Series to the Cup Series, and they’ve all just guided me in the right direction. From drivers to crew chiefs to crew members, they’ve always had my back, and that’s been a huge help – just having people believe in you.”

The 28-year-old Briscoe has been with SHR since 2018. He split a limited Xfinity schedule that season between what is now RFK Racing and SHR. He ran full time with SHR in the Xfinity Series in 2019 and ’20 before moving to Cup in 2021.

“Chase has made the most of every opportunity and the proof is in the results. Keeping him at SHR was a priority and we’re proud to have him in our racecars for many more years to come,” said Tony Stewart, who co-owns SHR with Haas Automation founder Gene Haas, in a statement from the team. 

Briscoe’s signing comes two weeks after teammate Kevin Harvick announced that this will be his final season in Cup. 

The Cup season begins Feb. 5 with the Busch Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before going to Daytona for the Feb. 19 Daytona 500.