JGL Racing

JGL Racing owner James Whitener diagnosed with liver failure

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CONCORD, N.C. – JGL Racing owner James Whitener was diagnosed with liver failure in January and is going on a transplant list to receive a new one, he confirmed in a statement to NBC Sports.

Whitener, 54, formed JGL Racing in 2014. Based in Denver, North Carolina, the team fields the No. 28 Ford driven by Dylan Lupton.

The team had fielded the No. 24 for Kaz Grala until earlier this month when Grala was let go.

Grala said Whitener’s medical costs played a part in the decision to shutter the team. The team originally stated the decision was due to lack of sponsorship.

“I found out kind of before the Dover race that things were looking a little bit shakey, unfortunately,” Grala said. “(Whitener) has some medical issues unfortunately. He didn’t really want to spend the money to continue running, which is understandable.”

Below is Whitener’s statement.

“What Kaz said is true that I have health issues. In fact, in January I found out that my liver is failing and I’m going on the transplant list for a new liver. It was not a decision to stop the No. 24 team with everyone just finding out after Dover – that was not the case at all. It had been discussed among the team really since Las Vegas. I really wish Kaz the best and hope I was instrumental in helping him start his Xfinity career. I watched him in the trucks last year and thought he would do well in our cars. All of my guys at JGL have helped me build this team and accomplish what we have up to this point and I thank all of them for their hard work and dedication in building both the No. 24 and No. 28 teams.”

“Since I couldn’t continue building both teams this year and helping young drivers as I have done in the past, I decided to give Kaz the three Roush cars along with parts and pieces to give him the opportunity to keep running and building on his career. Myself and everyone at JGL Racing wish him the best. Fury Racing has hired most of the employees from the 24 team that ran the first 10 races, so hopefully they can continue Kaz’s success with their program.  I would like to thank Kaz Grala and Dylan Lupton for being a part of the JGL Racing program.”

Through nine starts this season, Lupton is 29th in the point standings. His best finish is 17th at Texas Motor Speedway. Since 2014, JGL Racing has six top fives and 12 top 10s. Its best result is third in the July 2017 race at Daytona.

Kaz Grala, father reveal how Fury Race Cars came to Xfinity Series

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CONCORD, N.C. — The text was sent at 4:04 p.m. on May 9, four days after the last Xfinity Series race at Dover International Speedway.

The sender was Darius Grala, father of Kaz Grala, the JGL Racing driver who announced May 15 that was no longer his job title.

The receiver was Shane Wilson, the long-time Xfinity crew chief who had worked in that role for Grala through the first 10 races of the season.

(Photo by Daniel McFadin)

The elder Grala asked: “Can u talk?”

That was the moment when Fury Race Cars, the race car building company Grala founded in 2016 with Tony Eury Jr. and Jeff Fultz, started becoming an Xfinity Series team.

PUTTING THE TEAM TOGETHER

It wasn’t official until Kaz Grala, 19, drove onto the track Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, in his No. 61 Ford.

It capped a 15-day scramble for the Gralas, Wilson and other members of Fury Race Cars to become the newest Xfinity team. The effort was announced May 18.

It started with Darius Grala’s text. He had just gotten off the phone with JGL Racing owner James Whitener, who had offered to give them three of their Roush Fenway Racing built cars as a form of severance for Kaz Grala.

“I found out kind of before the Dover race that things were looking a little bit shakey, unfortunately,” Grala said. “(Whitener) has some medical issues unfortunately. He didn’t really want to spend the money to continue running, which is understandable.”

JGL Racing originally stated the 24 team was shuttered due to lack of sponsorship.

Whitener learned in January his liver is failing and he is going on a transplant list to receive a new one, he confirmed in a statement to NBC Sports.

“It was not a decision to stop the No. 24 team with everyone just finding out after Dover – that was not the case at all,” Whitener said. “It had been discussed among the team really since Las Vegas. I really wish Kaz the best and hope I was instrumental in helping him start his Xfinity career.”

Whitener said he made the decision to give Grala the three cars “to give him the opportunity to keep running and building on his career.”

Said Kaz Grala: “He was a huge supporter of me, right up until the end, emotionally and financially, you name it. He was a big fan of mine and he helped me kick off my Xfinity career. He wasn’t able to continue funding my ride. He definitely wanted to help however he could.”

The three cars from JGL Racing allowed Fury to get a “good jump” on the team building process in the midst of a two-week break for the series.

The process was made even easier with five of the six crew members who worked on Grala’s No. 24 car joining the team along with Wilson. They joined an operation in Fury that for the last two years was devoted to building modifieds, sports cars and late models.

Darius Grala, a native of Poland who moved to the United States when he was 8, had his own background as a sports car driver. That went along with the extensive time served as NASCAR crew chiefs by Eury and Ricky Viers.

But at Fury Race Cars, they’d never worked with a Xfinity car until this month.

“I don’t want you to think we took it lightly,” Darius Grala said. “Because we didn’t we didn’t want to come and embarrass ourselves. But there wasn’t any question right from the first conversation, obviously being Kaz’s dad I want to do everything I can but after speaking with Tony and Jeff, they were all in 100 percent, whatever we need to do, let’s figure it out.”

The group worked many late nights to get ready for Saturday’s race.

“Yes, you have to get the car built, but you’ve got to have the tool box to organize …. you need to have a pit box,” Kaz Grala said. “You need to have the hauler organized, I needed race suits in eight days, I needed polos. Just every single little thing and one of our biggest challenges, just logistically, was that this came together so late, just trying to get our entry forms in in time for this race and for Pocono. Everything came so quickly, all the little I’s had to be dotted and T’s had to be crossed. All that stuff takes time and we just didn’t have time.”

Kaz Grala walks through the Xfinity Series garage on Thursday. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

Even acquiring a fuel can was a hassle.

“They’re not easy to come by, it’s not like you can go to (a store) and buy one of those,” Darius Grala said.

They also had to pick a number.

“We let the team at Fury pick the number,” Kaz Grala said. “Actually you would be surprised when looking into numbers, I know I was, how few are actually on the market. Most of them are not. It really worked out perfectly, because Fury being modifieds is one of their main things that they build and all the guys at Fury are old-time, old-school guys and of course the 61 being Richie Evans’ was immediately what jumped out at them. That was kind of the inspiration for it. Not to mention my mom is actually from Rome, New York, as well, as Richie Evans was. Seemed like a good fit.”

The team loaded up its lone car for the Charlotte race weekend by 9 p.m. Wednesday, placing it in the team’s logo-free white hauler.

“That was the first relief since the day we started,” Darius Grala said.

He had a “really, really good” night of sleep.

A DEAL WITH GOD

With the sun setting on Fury’s first day as an Xfinity team, Kaz Grala pulled his No. 61 Ford into his garage stall – the very last stall meant for the lowest team in points or a new team without any – at the end of final practice.

On his last run, Grala posted the eighth best speed in the session at 179.784 mph. That placed him ahead of Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Ty Dillon and other drivers from big teams.

Where did they get that speed?

Darius Grala observes Xfinity practice atop the Fury Race Cars hauler. (Photo by Daniel McFadin)

“I don’t know, I guess a lot of hours and a lot of hard work right there, the car’s pretty darn good,” Grala said. “Couldn’t really ask for more than that.”

Has the driver who has competed in a full season of the Camping World Truck Series (and won one race) and 10 Xfinity races ever felt this good after a practice?

“Not in Xfinity, no,” he said. “I think we’re closer than we’ve been. We were within a couple of tenths of the 22 (Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski). If you’re within a couple of tenths of the 22 then you’re pretty darn good.”

In the Xfinity garage, JGL Racing’s No. 28 Ford driven by Dylan Lupton is parked right across from Fury’s stall. Lupton finished the session 24th.

“We’re still on good terms, we’re friends with all of them,” Grala said. “A little friendly competition, we’re a little bit quicker than them. We’re going to try and stay quicker than them. But we’re trying to be quicker than everyone here.”

The team’s next chance to be quicker than everyone else comes Saturday in qualifying. And the No. 61 team needs to qualify. They also need it to not rain. If it rains, they won’t be in the race.

“There’s 43 cars here and we have zero points,” said Darius Grala, noting the field would be set by owner points. “That’s about the only goal we have right now is we need to make a deal with God on the weather.

Qualifying is set to begin at 10:10 a.m. ET. The chance of rain then is 20 percent.

Regardless of the weather, the team will be back next week at Pocono and the two races after that. That fulfills the original sponsor deal Kaz Grala has with NETTTS, which has backed him since 2013 when he raced in modifieds.

The team is prepared to go beyond those four races, but won’t just stop looking for partners.

“As of right now, yes, it’s been a lot of work, but no one at Fury is scared of work,” Darius Grala said. “We’re looking at this being a step forward if at all possible.”

William Byron to drive Jeff Gordon’s ‘Rainbow Warriors’ scheme in Southern 500

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CONCORD, N.C. — One of the most famous paint schemes in NASCAR history will ride again in the Sept. 2 Southern 500.

The rainbow paint scheme Jeff Gordon drove for the first eight years of his Cup career will be resurrected for William Byron and the No. 24 Chevrolet.

The scheme was announced Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway in a presentation with Gordon, Byron and artist Sam Bass, who designed the scheme that debuted in the 1992 season finale at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The race was Gordon’s series debut.

Gordon drove the scheme full-time from 1993-2000 when he was sponsored by Du Pont. He drove it one last time in the 2015 Bristol night race during his final full-time season.

The scheme was used by Dylan Lupton in last year’s Xfinity Series race at Darlington.

Gordon, now an analyst for Fox Sports, never dreamed his paint scheme would be used in a throwback fashion decades later.

“I was just a young kid that was anxious to get out there and show what I could and excited about the opportunity to be at Hendrick Motorsports and hoped that I would be able to do my part and go on and win a race, let alone 93 of them,” Gordon said. “I certainly never looked far enough ahead that I would have ever thought we were creating something that would be part of NASCAR history or a throwback to the history at Darlington with a 20-year-old kid behind the wheel that wasn’t me.”

The four-time champion is a nominee for the 2019 NASCAR Hall of Fame Class. The class will be announced Wednesday.

Byron, 20, is in his rookie season with Hendrick Motorsports and will compete in his first Southern 500.

“Jeff’s got a huge history in the sport and to follow that and be able to carry his legacy and hopefully have success with it is my goal,” Byron said.

Byron is 19th in the point standings through 12 races.

Bass told the story of how he came to get the job of designing Gordon’s car in 1992.

“(Jeff Gordon’s crew chief) Ray Evernham came over to my shop looking for a birthday present for Jeff,” Bass recalled. “He picked up a print, he was getting ready to leave and wanted to pay me for it. I said, ‘No, I don’t want your money. I want you to give me a shot to design the race car for Jeff Gordon.’ I didn’t really think he would do it, but he called me back in a couple of weeks and said, ‘Hey, you got a shot.’ I worked on three designs and had two of them done the day it was due. On the way driving to work, I kept thinking in my mind Du Pont had said they wanted a rainbow of color. They wanted to car to show that they could produce a rainbow of colors.

“I went back to the shop and started working on something, and I knew when I got it done that if they would paint it that way it would definitely be different. I thought the guys in the body shop were gonna kill me when they saw it because they knew how difficult it was going to be to paint. To their credit, they did it and they were so proud of it.”

 

Ty Majeski already getting advice from fellow Wisconsin native Matt Kenseth

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CONCORD, North Carolina — It’s only one call, but Ty Majeski is already benefiting from the return of Matt Kenseth to the fold at Roush Fenway Racing.

Majeski, one of three drivers competing for Roush in the N0. 60 in the Xfinity Series this season, reached out to the 2003 Cup champion ahead of last weekend’s race at Dover International Speedway.

It was the first time the two Wisconsin natives have talked since Roush announced Kenseth would share its No. 6 Cup car with Trevor Bayne for the rest of the year, starting this weekend at Kansas Speedway.

Majeski, 23, is from Seymour, Wisconsin, 120 miles north of Kenseth’s hometown of Cambridge.

“He just told me what to expect, what to look for in the car, what the car needs to feel like in practice to be good on race day,” Majeski told NBC Sports Monday during a break in the Xfinity test session at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

MORE: Long: Can Matt Kenseth help return Roush to glory?

The conversation came after Majeksi’s first two starts in the No. 60 this season, where he wrecked out of races at Bristol and Talladega.

Majeski felt he had a top-10 car at Dover after qualifying ninth. But Majeski lost fourth gear and wrecked on Lap 170 in an incident with Dylan Lupton.

Majeski was “for sure” that his call with Kenseth helped him despite his third DNF in as many starts.

“We didn’t get the result we wanted, but that was the best put together weekend I feel the 60 has had all season,” Majeski said. “We practiced well. We qualified well, and we were racing really well.”

So far, the No. 60 Ford is struggling with Majeski, Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric sharing the ride. None has finished in the top 10 or on the lead lap through 10 races. The No. 60 has five DNFs between Majeski and Cindric.

While Cindric also races for Team Penske and Briscoe with Stewart-Haas Racing, Majeski is limited to his races with Roush.

Majeski “was excited” when he learned Kenseth was returning to the team he raced for from 1999-2012 before departing for Joe Gibbs Racing.

“Anytime you can get Matt Kenseth or any guy of his stature and his level of experience back into an organization it’s huge for everybody,” Majeski said. “It’s huge for me to lean on him. It’s huge for our engineers to get a guy that has experience to give us the feedback we need to make our cars better.”

Kenseth’s insight comes in addition to Majeski’s access to Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Stenhouse helped shake down Majeski’s car for the Charlotte test before he took over.

But Majeski’s history with Kenseth didn’t start with his phone call.

His path has crossed with Kenseth’s multiple times on short tracks in their home state in late model races. It didn’t always end well for Majeski.

“Early in my career I wasn’t racing around him at all,” Majeski said. “Two years ago at (the) Slinger (Nationals at Slinger Speedway), I was leading the race with 50 to go and blew a right rear tire. I was pulling away from them, we were probably going to win the race, but he ended up winning. … He was driving for a different team so I wasn’t able to go and talk to him or anything like that. We actually got into each other for the lead on like Lap 20 and we both had to go to the back and we both had to make our way up through the field and he was actually following me up through the field. I was making the holes for him.”

 

Justin Allgaier wins Dover Xfinity race over Elliott Sadler

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Justin Allgaier survived a 27-lap battle with teammate Elliott Sadler to win the OneMain Financial 200 at Dover International Speedway.

Sadler failed to complete a pass of Allgaier coming out of Turn 4, nearly wrecking them both in the process.

The JR Motorsports drivers were also battling for the final Dash 4 Cash $100,000 bonus. Sadler had won the last two.

“Elliott and I had a great race,” Allgaier told Fox Sports 1. “The amount of respect Elliott showed me was great. Obviously we got together coming to the checkered. I expected that. I knew he had to do what he had to do. We had to do what we had to do.”

Allgaier led 104 laps to win his first Xfinity Series race since last September at Chicagoland Speedway. It was his sixth career win and came in his 250th start.

“That race I couldn’t have asked for anything better,” Allgaier said. “My wife and my daughter aren’t here and that’s probably the hardest part about today. … When we were coming to the checkered, even though I was in the fence I was thinking I was really disappointed that they’re not here.”

The top five was Allgaier, Sadler, Daniel Hemric, Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Elliott Sadler

STAGE 2 WINNER: Justin Allgaier

MORE: Race results and point standings

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Elliott Sadler is the only driver to finish in the top 10 in every race this season. He has six runner-up finishes since his last victory in September 2016 … Johnny Sauter finished sixth in place of the suspended Spencer Gallagher … Tyler Reddick earned his first top five since winning the season opener at Daytona … Noah Gragson placed seventh. He has finished in the top 10 in each of his three Xfinity starts.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Ty Majeski was the leader on the Stage 2 restart when he quickly fell off the pace. He went to the garage with a mechanical problem. Majeski returned but was involved in a wreck with Dylan Lupton with 32 laps to go. He finished 34th … Kaz Grala wrecked with 13 laps to go in Stage 2. He finished 37th … Alex Labbe spun after being nudged by Ryan Reed with 57 laps to go. His right front tire then blew, causing significant damage to his No. 36 Chevy. He finished 21st.

NOTABLE: JR Motorsports has finished 1-2 six times and twice this year. Sadler was second both times … Justin Allgaier is the 13th different winner in the last 13 races, tying the record for most consecutive different winners.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I really want to get those guys a win. I’m tired of finishing in the top five without any checkered flags to show for it.” – Elliott Sadler to FS1.

WHAT’S NEXT: Alsco 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway at 1 p.m. ET on May 26 on Fox Sports 1.