Brandon Jones

Longtime crew chief Nick Harrison dies at 37, team announces

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LOUDON, N.H. — Kaulig Racing announced Sunday morning that veteran crew chief Nick Harrison died. He was 37.

Harrison was the crew chief for Justin Haley‘s No. 11 Chevrolet in the Xfinity Series and had called the car’s 13th-place finish Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

In a statement attributed to team owner Matt Kaulig and president Chris Rice, the team said in a tweet that “It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of Nick Harrison, our beloved crew chief of the No. 11 car at Kaulig Racing. Please keep Nick’s family in your thoughts and prayers at this time.”

No cause of death or information on services was immediately available. A Kaulig Racing spokesperson said “further details would be provided as they come.”

NASCAR released a statement on Harrison’s death: “We are deeply saddened by the loss of longtime crew chief Nick Harrison, and offer our thoughts, prayers and support to his family, friends and Kaulig Racing colleagues.”

According to Racing-Reference.info, Harrison made his debut as an Xfinity crew chief in 2006. He was a crew chief for 184 Xfinity races (including 17 with Haley this year) and had five victories, his first with Kurt Busch in 2012 at Daytona International Speedway with James Finch’s Phoenix Racing.

He also worked 120 races as a crew chief in the Cup Series, including full seasons in 2011-12 with Phoenix Racing’s No. 51 Chevrolet. He guided Busch to a third place June 24, 2012 at Sonoma Raceway, marking Harrison’s best finish as a Cup crew chief.

Harrison also won three times in the Xfinity Series with Austin Dillon and once with Paul Menard. He also won with Dillon in the Aug. 2, 2014 truck race at Pocono Raceway, one of three truck races for Harrison as a crew chief.

During a career with several teams including Phoenix, Richard Childress Racing and Kaulig, Harrison worked with more than a dozen Cup and Xfinity drivers. The roster included Bobby Labonte, Bill Elliott, Boris Said, A.J. Allmendinger, Micahel McDowell, Regan Smith, Ryan Truex, Landon Cassill, Jamie McMurray, Ty Dillon, Jeremy Clements, Brandon Jones, Ben Kennedy and Brendan Gaughan.

Christopher Bell wins Xfinity race at New Hampshire

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Christopher Bell won Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in dominating fashion, leading 186 of 200 laps and beating Cole Custer.

With the win, Bell’s second in a row on the 1.058-mile track, he is again tied with Custer for the most wins on the season with five.

Bell and Custer have finished 1-2 four times this year.

“I just had a really good race car,” Bell told NBCSN. “This track’s been really good to us and our team.”

The top five was completed by Justin Allgaier, Tyler Reddick and Paul Menard.

Bell’s win is the 13th of his Xfinity career in just his 59th start, tying him for the most by that point with Darrell Waltrip.

Custer, who started from the pole, never led a lap.

“There at the end I felt like we had a car that could compete with him, but I just wasn’t driving the car right at the start of the race and I got us behind on adjustments,” Custer said. “From there, we were kind of playing catchup.”

STAGE 1 WINNER: Brandon Jones won in a three-wide finish over Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick.

STAGE 2 WINNER: Christopher Bell won with a 6.5 second lead over Justin Allgaier

MORE: Race results and points

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Justin Allgaier earned his first top-five finish at New Hampshire in his ninth start … Ryan Sieg placed eighth for his first finish better than 15th at New Hampshire in six starts.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: John Hunter Nemechek finished 36th after he wrecked in Turn 1 on Lap 32 … Harrison Burton finished 29th after he was spun from contact with Paul Menard with 46 laps to go. That was after Burton had fought his way back into the top five following a slow early pit stop when a pit gun malfunctioned. The drivers had a tense post-race discussion on pit road.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I don’t care what series he races in or who he is. He raced me in a terrible way and I just decided I needed to hear from him what his story was. I didn’t like his story so I’ll race him accordingly.” – Harrison Burton to NBCSN after his discussion with Paul Menard.

WHAT’S NEXT: U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway at 5 p.m. ET July 27 on NBCSN

 

Kentucky winners and losers

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WINNERS

Matt McCall — Kurt Busch deserves much credit for winning at Kentucky Speedway but let’s not forget his crew chief, who was roasted on social media last week for having Busch pit before the field went back to green at Daytona only to see lightning cost them a chance at the win. At Kentucky, McCall went for fuel only on the team’s first stop, a key move in a race where track position was critical, and made the right calls throughout the night, including a four-tire change on the last stop, to give Busch a chance to win his first race of the season and earn a playoff spot.

Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch While many would have preferred a “Days of Thunder” last-lap crash that led to someone else winning, these two had a dramatic battle for the win that pushed both to the edge but not over it. 

NASCAR — Remember when series officials used to keep drivers from standing on the roof of their car or anything like that during victory celebrations? Alex Bowman did it after his Chicago win and Kurt Busch did it after his Kentucky victory. Then, some of Busch’s crew members climbed atop the car and rode it to Victory Lane. Nice to see spontaneous celebrations are allowed.

Tyler AnkrumTook the lead with two laps to go when Brett Moffitt ran out of fuel to score the victory in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Kentucky. It was the 18-year-old Ankrum’s first series win, putting him in a playoff spot.

 

LOSERS

Daniel SuarezWhile his eighth-place finish was his best result in the last four races, it was unfulfilling. If Suarez goes on to make the playoffs, this night will be forgotten. If he fails to make the playoffs, this race might be a key reason why. He started on the pole but failed to score any stage points after a pit call backfired in the first stage and a flat tire forced a green-flag stop in the second stage. He entered the race three points behind Ryan Newman for the final playoff spot. Newman started last because of an inspection failure and finished ninth, losing only one point Suarez. Erik Jones’ third-place finish moved him past Newman and Suarez into a playoff spot.

Denny Hamlin’s pit crew — For the fifth time this season, Hamlin’s team was called for an uncontrolled penalty. While Hamlin has been a critic of how NASCAR has called such penalties this season, he said that crew chief Chris Gabehart told him that the infraction was “pretty obvious.” Said Hamlin: “It’s on us to tighten it up, know the rules and try not to have these penalties, especially on a two-tire stop. We’ve got to be better.”

Jimmie Johnson Rough night ends in a 30th-place finish. He falls to 15th in the season standings. Ryan Newman, the first driver outside a playoff spot is only 10 points behind Johnson. Seven races remain until the playoff field is set but will this be the year Johnson misses the playoffs?

Brandon Jones Rough weekend at Kentucky. He was leading the Truck race when Grant Enfinger lost control as they raced for position and wrecked them both. Jones finished 23rd. The next night, Jones’ Xfinity car was fast before an engine failure ended his night in 30th.

Cole Custer cruises to Xfinity victory at Kentucky

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SPARTA, Ky. – Cole Custer scored his series-high fifth Xfinity victory of the season Friday night, winning at Kentucky Speedway.

The series’ three dominant drivers this season all finished in the top three. Christopher Bell, who won the first two stages, finished second. Tyler Reddick was third.

Michael Annett and Chase Briscoe completed the top five. Only the top five cars finished on the lead lap. Custer led 88 of the 200 laps.

MORE: Click here for race results

MORE: Click here for driver points

This is Custer’s second consecutive victory on a 1.5-mile track. He won at Chicagoland Speedway two weeks ago. This also is Custer’s third victory in the last six races.

“This one just goes to my team,” Custer said. “The car was unbelievable at the end. They knew exactly what to do with it when the track changed and I was just lucky to drive it there at the end.”

Stage 1 winner: Christopher Bell

Stage 2 winner: Christopher Bell

Who had a bad race: Austin Cindric started on the pole and was running in the top five when he got loose underneath Justin Haley‘s car and backed into the wall in Turn 3 on Lap 55. Cindric went on to finish 14th. … Brandon Jones ran in the top five much of the race until an engine issue on Lap 106 ended his race. Jones finished 30th.

Who had a good race: The Big 3 (Cole Custer, Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick) went 1-2-3. Michael Annett’s fourth-place finish was his third top-five in the last five races. … Ryan Truex finished eighth in just his second start of the season. … Ryan Sieg‘s ninth-place run was his first top 10 in the last six races.

Notable: All five of Cole Custer’s wins this season have come in the last 13 races. He had two wins in his first 75 series starts.

Next: July 20 at New Hampshire at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Tyler Ankrum scores first career Truck Series victory

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SPARTA, Ky. – Brett Moffitt ran out fuel while leading with less than two laps left, allowing Tyler Ankrum to score his first career Gander Outdoors Truck Series win Thursday at Kentucky Speedway.

The 18-year-old Ankrum won in his 12th career series start.

“I think this goes to show that the youngsters and underdogs can still win,” said Ankrum, who drives for DGR-Crosley, in Victory Lane. “I don’t think DGR has been viewed as a GMS (Racing) or a KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports) or a ThorSport (Racing) team, but I think they will be now. I’m honestly so proud of that. That’s really what I’ve been wanting to do. I’m just all about improvement. Improve every single week and try and get better and I think that’s what we did. We finished it.”

Ankrum was not eligible to compete in the first three races of the season because he did not turn 18 until March 6. Ankrum is eligible for the playoffs with the victory because NASCAR has granted a waiver since he missed races because of an age restriction.

MORE: Click here for race results 

MORE: Click here for driver points

Stewart Friesen finished second in a backup car. NASCAR confiscated his primary truck during inspection at the beginning of the day for an issue with the firewall. Harrison Burton placed third.

Ross Chastain finished fourth and climbed into the top 20 in points, making him playoff eligible with his recent victory at Gateway.

Ben Rhodes hit the wall late while running second with less than 20 laps left and had a tire go down.

Points leader Grant Enfinger and Brandon Jones crashed while racing for the lead on Lap 65. Both were eliminated. Enfinger told his team on the radio that he was sorry and that he lost control of the truck underneath Jones’ truck.

Stage 1 winner: Sheldon Creed

Stage 2 winner: Matt Crafton

Next: July 27 at Pocono Raceway.