Suspended drivers are not permitted to attended any NASCAR-sanctioned events.
A NASCAR spokesperson said Gallagher was not aware he was barred from the test. Upon learning that his suspension precluded him from being in the garage, he left.
Gallagher declined to answer questions from NBC Sports.
Gallagher, who drives GMS Racing’s No. 23 Chevrolet, was suspended May 2 — four days after winning his first career Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway. He has agreed to take part in the Road to Recovery program. No timetable for his return has been announced.
Former Chip Ganassi Racing driver Brennan Poole took Gallagher’s place during the one-day open test. Poole’s name is on the car and his GMS Racing firesuit. He has not competed in a NASCAR race since last season’s Xfinity finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Johnny Sauter, who drives for GMS Racing in the Camping World Truck Series, drove the No. 23 last Saturday at Dover International Speedway. He finished sixth.
A GMS Racing spokesperson told NBC Sports on Monday that a driver for the May 26 race at Charlotte — the next Xfinity race — has not been finalized.
In Victory Lane after Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Talladega Superspeedway, an elated and soaked Spencer Gallagher looked into a TV camera and declared:
“When I get home we’re going to party like it’s 1999!”
In the hours that followed, the beer flowed on Talladega Boulevard. The GMS Racing driver eventually found himself sitting behind a table with a meme-inspired sign that read, “I have the best signature in NASCAR, change my mind.”
Gallagher had grabbed hero cards from every “nook and cranny” he could find “because I knew I was going to need them all.”
He proceeded to sign between 100 and 150 cards for fans.
“Something I’ve always been very proud of is my signature,” Gallagher told NBC Sports. “I like it about me. I love signing for people. I figured that would be a good little piece of signage to bring the fans in and get something in their hands.”
Some say he has three ears, some say he won Talladega and went into the infield to sign autographs. All we know is he’s called Spencer, and he’s probably still out there 👀 pic.twitter.com/zRfTXz6aJf
Roughly 11 hours after winning his first career NASCAR race, the 28-year-old driver was the last one standing.
Alone in his RV at 3 a.m., Gallagher did two things before passing out.
He played Super Mario on his Nintendo Switch and scoured the Internet for any video clips he could find of a race and a day he will “treasure for a long time.”
“That was my night,” Gallagher said. “I regret nothing.”
NO SLUMP HERE
Before sleep claimed him, Gallagher watched the final two laps of the Sparks Energy 300 overtime finish between eight and 10 times.
“It doesn’t get old,” Gallagher said. “Every second of that clip I can remember now what I was thinking in that moment and what I was trying to go. It’s just so great.”
Though it may have felt like it in the general chaos Talladega creates, Gallagher didn’t come out of nowhere to win.
Gallagher qualified third earlier in the day, his best qualifying spot of his career. He finished Stage 2 in second behind Elliott Sadler.
His win in the 115-lap race was his fifth top 10 through nine races and his second top five in the last three races. The first came at Bristol, where he finished fifth and qualified for the Dash 4 Cash the following week at Richmond.
It’s an impressive three-week stretch for a team that only claimed one top 10 last year in its first season of Xfinity competition.
Gallagher realized his team was trending upward following a race he considered disappointing.
“Ironically, it actually occurred to me in Phoenix,” Gallagher said of the race where he finished 14th. “I really wasn’t that happy with the car that day. But it had popped in my head that really, I felt that it was really an off day for us. If that can be our off days and we still pull out a top-15 finish, we might be on to something here. That’s the name of this game. You have to be up front and you have to race hard and bring home good results. But there’s an element of consistency to it. If you can have a bad day and still finish around the top 15, top 10, you’re doing something right in this business.”
Another measure for his team’s progress is Sadler, who said after Saturday’s race that Gallagher was one of the most improved drivers from last year.
Through 10 races, Sadler and Gallagher have the best average finishes among full-time drivers. Sadler’s is 4.9 and Gallagher’s 9.8.
“I think a lot of it is experience, getting to work together in our second year as a team,” Gallagher said. “I like to think a lot of it is the lumps we took the first year.”
In his rookie season, the No. 23 team had eight DNFs and finished better than 14th twice.
“We learned the hard way; we didn’t want to have another year like that,” Gallagher said.
“He’s really been a big element in turning this program around and making it into a competitive worthy team in a NASCAR national series,” Gallagher said.
It wasn’t until Sunday, after Gallagher was drug from bed around 11 a.m., that it occurred to him the lap he led to win the race the previous afternoon was his first in 49 Xfinity starts.
“It’s not really something that crosses your mind, you’re just happy you got to lead the right one,” Gallagher said. “Hopefully it’s the first of many more.”
Then, remembering he qualified for the Dash 4 Cash this weekend at Dover, Gallagher had a second thought.
“It’s great there’s a trophy in my motor home right now. How am I going to bring these guys $100,000 at Dover and do it again?” recalled Gallagher.
“It’s true you get that monkey off your back,” Gallagher said. “Nothing will ever feel so good. But what people don’t tell you is that immediately after that comes the hint of, ‘How do we do this again?’ Then the cycles starts all over new.”
DC Solar will sponsor Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray in select Cup Series races and several Xfinity Series races this year, the team announced Tuesday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
DC Solar has backed Ganassi for the last three seasons in the Xfinity Series. It sponsored Brennan Poole‘s No. 48 Chevrolet for the last two seasons. Ganassi will only field one full-time car in the Xfinity Series this season.
The provider of mobile solar lighting devices will be on Larson’s No. 42 Chevrolet and McMurray’s No. 1 Chevrolet in Cup. Both drivers will pilot the No. 42 in the Xfinity Series, along with John Hunter Nemechek.
McMurray hasn’t competed in the Xfinity Series since 2013.
DC Solar will make its Cup debut with Larson and the in the season-opening Advance Auto Parts Clash exhibition on Feb. 11.
DC Solar provides mobile solar lighting solutions, EV chargers, and power stations to multiple tracks, including Charlotte Motor Speedway, ISM Raceway (Phoenix) and Darlington Raceway.
The company has also partnered with ISM Raceway during its $178 million renovation project.
John Hunter Nemechek, the son of former Cup driver Joe Nemechek, will join Chip Ganassi Racing in 2018 to compete part-time in the Xfinity Series, the team announced Tuesday.
At 20-year-old driver will pilot the No. 42 Chevrolet in multiple races, sharing the ride with Kyle Larson. Fire Alarm Services, which sponsored Nemechek in the Truck Series, will move up to Xfinity with him.
The No. 42 has significant meaning to the Nemechek family. Joe Nemechek earned his first of four Cup wins driving the No. 42 for Felix Sabates in 1999 at New Hampshire. He drove for Sabates from 1997-99.
Sabates is a co-owner of Chip Ganassi Racing.
John Hunter Nemechek spent the last two years full-time in the Camping World Truck Series driving the No. 8 Chevrolet for his family-owned team, NEMCO Motorsports. He has 76 starts in the series since 2013 and five wins, two coming in each of the last two seasons.
“I couldn’t be more excited to join Chip Ganassi Racing,” Nemechek said in a press release. “I feel like their cars and organization were the talk of the garage in 2017 and I hope to play a part in continuing their run of success in 2018 and beyond. Also, Fire Alarm Services has been a supporter of my career since 2016 at our family-owned team, and I am looking forward to continuing that partnership at Chip Ganassi Racing. I am extremely grateful to Shannon and Connie Smith, owners of Fire Alarm Services, Inc. I also want to thank my father for all that he has done to help grow my passion for racing.”
Nemechek will work with veteran crew chief Mike Shiplett, who has led the No. 42 team for the last four seasons.
The No. 42 will be the only full-time entry for Ganassi in the Xfinity Series in 2018. It fielded the No. 48 for Brennan Poole the last two seasons. No announcements have been made about Poole’s future.
“We are happy to have John Hunter join our organization and also announce the relationship with Fire Alarm Services,” Chip Ganassi said in a press release. “We had a very successful 2017 with our Xfinity program and look to improve upon that. We feel that John Hunter has the talent to be a future star in the sport and can’t wait to get him behind the wheel.”
Chad Norris has been named crew chief of Spencer Gallagher‘s No. 23 Chevrolet in the Xfinity Series next year, GMS Racing announced Thursday.
Norris, who has spent the last two seasons as crew chief for Brennan Poole at Chip Ganassi Racing, replaces Joey Cohen.
In Gallagher’s rookie season, the 28-year-old driver recorded one top 10 (Richmond I), eight DNFs and finished 19th in the standings.
Norris and Poole earned four top fives and 17 tops 10s in each of their two seasons together. The No. 48 team advanced to the second round of the playoffs this season and finished sixth in the standings.
“Chad will bring a lot of good and solid knowledge to this Xfinity program,” said General Manager Mike Beam in a press release. “Spencer showed a lot of improvement last season, and I feel like Chad can take him to the next level. With Chad’s veteran knowledge and experience, I know Spencer and this No. 23 team will succeed and excel.”
“I am really excited to join GMS Racing for the 2018 season,” Norris said in the press release. “We have all of the assets to build this Xfinity team into a top-tier competitor every weekend at the track. With Mike Beam and myself there is a lot of veteran knowledge to continue to not only help Spencer to grow as a driver but the Xfinity program as a whole.”