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Jeffrey Earnhardt to drive seven races for new Cup, Xfinity team in 2019

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On the eve of the first NASCAR race weekend of the season, a new team that will split time competing in the Cup and Xfinity Series in 2019 was announced Thursday.

Xtreme Concepts Inc., which is already an existing sponsor of Joe Gibbs Racing, has formed Xtreme Concepts Racing (XCI Racing).

XCI Racing will compete in two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races and five Xfinity Series races in 2019. Both cars that will be fielded are Toyota Camrys and will carry the No. 81. Jeffrey Earnhardt will handle driving duties in all seven races.

“As a driver, you want to get all the seat time you can, not just seat time but seat time in really good equipment,” Earnhardt said at a press conference Thursday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway. “Xtreme Concepts has given me the opportunity to do so in Gibbs equipment, but now add a little icing to the cake, given me the opportunity to do it in an Xtreme Concepts car in alliance with Joe Gibbs (Racing). I’m really looking forward to showing what I’ve got.”

The team will make its debut in the March 30 Xfinity race at Texas Motor Speedway, then will compete in the Cup race April 28 at Talladega Superspeedway.

The team will then compete in Xfinity races on June 29 at Chicagoland Speedway, July 5 at Daytona International Speedway, Aug. 16 at Bristol Motor Speedway and Aug. 31 at Darlington Raceway.

XCI’s final race in 2019 will be back on the Cup circuit on Oct. 13 at Talladega.

“We are taking a very deliberate and methodical approach to becoming a NASCAR team,” Landon Ash, founder of Birmingham, Alabama-based Xtreme Concepts and owner of XCI Racing, said in a media release. “Having a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing makes the learning curve a little less steep and allows us to field competitive racecars right out of the gate.

“Our ultimate goal is to become a full-time team in the NASCAR Cup Series. We’ll take what we learn this season and apply it to next season. We plan to grow incrementally, and our alliance with JGR will be a key component of that growth.”

Joe Gibbs Racing secures sponsor for 24 Xfinity races

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Xtreme Concept Inc. has expanded its partnership with Joe Gibbs Racing and will sponsor Jeffrey Earnhardt, Kyle Busch and Brandon Jones across 24 NASCAR Xfinity races this season.

iK9, a comprehensive canine solutions provider for detection and service dogs administrated by Xtreme Concepts, will be the lead brand for each driver.

Xtreme Concepts will sponsor Jeffrey Earnhardt in nine Xfinity races in the No. 18 Toyota Supra this season. Those races will be:

Feb. 16 – Daytona International Speedway

Feb. 23 – Atlanta Motor Speedway

April 27 – Talladega Superspeedway

May 25 – Charlotte Motor Speedway

June 1 – Pocono Raceway

Aug. 10 – Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course

Aug. 24 – Road America

Nov. 9 – ISM Raceway (Phoenix)

Nov. 16 – Homestead-Miami Speedway

MORE: Jeffrey Earnhardt ready to win Xfinity races 

Kyle Busch will drive the No. 18 with sponsorship from iK9 in five races. Those races will be:

March 2 – Las Vegas Motor Speedway

March 9 – ISM Raceway (Phoenix)

March 16 – Auto Club Speedway

March 30 – Texas Motor Speedway

Aug. 3 – Watkins Glen International

Brandon Jones, who is running the full season in the No. 19 Xfinity Series car for Joe Gibbs Racing, will have iK9 on his car in 10 races starting April 27 at Talladega.

“We are firm believers in the power of motorsports as a marketing platform, and it’s why we’ve expanded our partnership with Joe Gibbs Racing to promote the iK9 brand for the majority of the Xfinity Series schedule,” said Landon Ash, founder of Birmingham, Alabama-based Xtreme Concepts, in a statement. “We’re investing in young talent in Jeffrey Earnhardt and Brandon Jones, and also proven talent in Kyle Busch. These three personalities can deliver for iK9 on the racetrack and interact with our customers off the track. They’re specialized athletes who align very well with iK9, as we provide the skills and support necessary for our clients to care for their highly specialized dogs.”

 

Friday 5: Jeffrey Earnhardt ready for challenge of winning Xfinity races

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HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. — Jeffrey Earnhardt sighs and says “too long.”

He rests his head in his hand and stares ahead.

“It’s been too long,” Earnhardt says since he last won a race. “Hell, I can’t remember. That’s pretty sad. It’s been a while.”

A journey that started with racing a Yugo — yes, a Yugo — and later moved from small team to small team in NASCAR, now has its reward more than a decade later.

Earnhardt will drive in nine Xfinity races for Joe Gibbs Racing this season, beginning with the Feb. 16 season opener at Daytona International Speedway. 

The expectations are high — “it’s wins or nothing” he saidbut the pressure can’t compare to what Earnhardt faced to reach this point.

“The pressure to go and get in a car that is capable of winning, that’s the pressure I’ve been looking for my whole life,” he said, wearing a black Joe Gibbs Racing T-shirt in a conference room at the team’s Cup headquarters.

Instead, the pressure has been to survive in the sport. Beginning with the Yugo.

He begged his father for a couple of years to let him race. His dad eventually relented, saying Earnhardt could compete if he found a car and sponsorship to pay for it. Earnhardt got the Yugo and sponsorship for it.

He never won in that car. But he didn’t drive it long.

“I ended up flipping it,” Earnhardt said of a race at Wythe Raceway in Rural Retreat, Virginia. “Because it was so slow. A guy shoved me off in the corner and turned me sideways and another car came and hit the front end of the car … and turned me head-on into the outside wall. Flipped. Landed on its roof.

“I was like, ‘Man, this thing is going to catch on fire.’ I’d seen too many movies. I ended up getting my shoelace hung on the brake pedal and didn’t think I was going to make it out alive. Everyone was like, ‘You’re fine, we’ve got you.’ ”

He thought everything would be fine when he joined Dale Earnhardt Inc. and drove in what is now the K&N Pro Series East Series in 2007-08.

“Signed a four-year contract at 17 years old and thought, this is going to be a walk in the park,” Earnhardt told NBC Sports. “Everything is going to be taken care of.”

But his ride went away after DEI merged with Chip Ganassi Racing in November 2008. The struggle to find rides began. Earnhardt ran one K&N Pro Series East race and two Xfinity races in 2009. He ran five Truck races in 2010. In 2011, he drove in two Xfinity races and five Truck races.

Earnhardt fought in one MMA bout in 2012 — he won — but realized afterward that he still wanted to race.

“I did the MMA thing to try to find something that gave me that rush that I get in a race car and it still wasn’t the equivalent,” Earnhardt said.

He continued to search for rides.

“What my grandfather did and his legacy means the world to me,” Earnhardt said of the late Dale Earnhardt. “I would hate to not think that I gave literally everything I possibly could to make it continue.”

He’s driven in 151 races in Cup, Xfinity and Trucks but never with a team that could compete for wins. His best Xfinity finish is 12th at Bristol (2014) and Talladega (2015). His best Cup finish is 11th in last July’s Daytona race.

With JGR, top 10s should be common. Earnhardt will drive the No. 18, a car that won twice last year with Ryan Preece at Bristol and Kyle Busch at Pocono and saw Noah Gragson finish second with in his Xfinity debut at Richmond last year.

“I was talking on the phone with my manager and I was like, I’ve gone from the struggle of trying to keep the car under me for the whole entire race and not wreck to now the struggle is going to be those late-race restarts when you’re on the front row,” Earnhardt said. “That’s a new challenge, it’s a good challenge.”

2. Reversal of fortune

What would have happened had NASCAR disqualified cars last year that failed inspection after a race instead of doing it this season?

Two Cup races would have had different winners.

Kyle Busch would have finished the season with a series-high nine wins instead of being tied with Kevin Harvick at eight.

Harvick would have lost his win at Las Vegas after his car was found to have an issue with the rear window during an inspection at NASCAR’s R&D Center. That would have given Busch, the runner-up, the win.

Also, Harvick would have lost his Texas win for an issue with the spoiler — also discovered at the R&D Center. But runner-up Ryan Blaney was penalized because his car failed inspection and the win would have gone to Joey Logano, who finished third in that race.

Nine cars that finished in the top four in a Cup race last year failed inspection after the event and would have been disqualified under this year’s rules.

3. Disqualification penalty appeals

Should a vehicle be disqualified after failing inspection after the race, the team can appeal. They will have to pay a non-refundable appeal filing fee of $5,000.

Unlike a regular appeal, which features a panel of three people, the race disqualification appeal will be heard by one person. It could be one of the 28 people listed in the rule book as appeal panelists or it could be the Final Appeal Officer or their alternate.

One thing to note in this particular type of case is that the decision of that one panelist is final. The decision cannot be appealed to the Final Appeal Officer.

4. Charter transfers

With a new season, comes the transfer of charters in Cup.

Six of the 36 charters have changed teams for this season.

The charter that was with BK Racing’s No. 23 car last year, which Front Row Motorsports purchased, will be with the No. 38 car of David Ragan.

The charter that had been with Ragan’s team goes to teammate Matt Tifft. Front Row Motorsports added a car, growing to a third team this season.

The charter with Richard Petty Motorsport’s No. 43 car with Bubba Wallace goes to Rick Ware Racing and will be aligned with the No. 51 car and driven by B.J. McLeod in the Daytona 500.

The charter that was with Rick Ware Racing’s No. 51 car last year goes to RPM’s No. 43 car this season.

Furniture Row Racing’s charter was purchased by Spire Motorsports and be used with the No. 77 car. That will be No. 40 for Jamie McMurray in the Daytona 500 and then go back to No. 77 the rest of the season. 

The charter that had been with the No. 72 car of TriStar Motorsports moves to the No. 52 car at Rick Ware Racing.

5. Rule changes

NASCAR came out with a bulletin this week that updated its rule book.

Among some of the changes:

— Drivers must have all four tires below the orange box at the commitment line to enter pit road. That had been the case last year at all tracks except Martinsville. Drivers needed to only put two tires under the orange box there. Now, they will have to adjust at Martinsville.

— A pit crew member’s foot must not touch pit road before the vehicle is one pit box away from its assigned pit box or the equivalent marked distance. Should a crew member’s foot or both feet touch the pit road surface too early, the pit crew member can re-establish their position back to or behind the pit wall before servicing the car to avoid a penalty.

— A sixth person can go over the wall during a pit stop but that person’s duties are limited to servicing the driver in their health and well-being, assisting with safety systems, window net, helmet and cooling ventilation hose, radio system replacement, steering wheel wiring, providing personal medical supplies and cleaning the windshield. Such a person, though, is not allowed to help repair the body and/or mechanical components on the car.

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Riley Herbst to compete part-time in Xfinity for Joe Gibbs Racing

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Riley Herbst will compete part-time for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Xfinity Series and the ARCA Racing Series this season, the team announced Wednesday.

Herbst, who turns 20 on Feb. 24, will be sponsored by Monster Energy in both series along with Advance Auto Parts and ORCA Coolers.

JGR had previously been sponsored by NOS Energy.

The Las Vegas native made his Xfinity debut in the June 2018 race at Iowa Speedway and finished sixth.

Herbst will make his first of eight Xfinity starts this season on April 12 at Richmond.

He will split time in the No. 18 Toyota with Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Jeffrey Earnhardt.

The team will be led by crew chief Ben Beshore, who previously served as a race engineer for JGR’s Cup program.

In ARCA, Herbst will share the No. 18 Toyota with Ty Gibbs, grandson of JGR owner Joe Gibbs. Herbst will make seven starts and Ty Gibbs will make 12 starts.

“To be a part of JGR the last few years has been a great opportunity for me and I’m excited to compete in both the Xfinity and ARCA series this year,” said Herbst in a press release. “The new Toyota Supra’s are pretty sweet and I can’t wait to get behind the wheel of one and take it around the track.

“We’ve got goals set for this year and it would be cool to get my first win this season and take the new Supra to victory lane. 2019 is going to be a fun year and I’m ready to get it started at Daytona in a few weeks.”

Herbst will be among the drivers taking part in this week’s two-day organizational test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

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Wayne Carroll to serve as Landon Cassill’s crew chief, Tony Furr moves to ARCA team

Landon Cassill. Photo: Getty Images.
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StarCom Racing has named Wayne Carroll as crew chief for driver Landon Cassill in the 2019 Cup season, NBC Sports has confirmed.

Carroll served as crew chief for 12 Cup races last season on StarCom Racing’s No. 99 car, working with several drivers including Derrike Cope, Gray Gaulding, Kyle Weatherman and three races with Cassill.

After leasing a charter from Richard Childress Racing for the No. 00 last season, StarCom purchased the charter for the same car for this season. The No. 00 and 99 will also have ECR motors under the hood for both Cassill and teammate Derrike Cope.

Also, Tony Furr, who served as crew chief for both Cassill and Jeffrey Earnhardt last season with StarCom, has accepted a similar position with Mullins Racing in the ARCA Racing Series, the team announced Tuesday.

Tony Furr, right, and team owner/driver Willie Mullins. Photo: Dinah Marie.

Furr will serve as crew chief for the No. 3 Mullins Racing Ford driven by team owner and 2018 Daytona ARCA runner-up Willie Mullins in the ARCA Racing Series season-opening Lucas Oil 200 on Feb. 9 at Daytona International Speedway.

Furr has spent much of his career in the Cup Series, working with numerous stars including Bill Elliott, Joe Nemechek, John Andretti, Ward Burton, Jerry Nadeau and others.

Furr has two Cup Series wins as a crew chief, one with Andretti in the summer race at Daytona in 1997 and one with Nadeau at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2000.

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