Photo credit: Sam Mayer

JR Motorsports adds 14-year-old driver to Late Model team

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JR Motorsports has hired 14-year-old Sam Mayer to join 2017 CARS Late Model Stock Car Series champion Josh Berry as a teammate this season.

Mayer, who is from Franklin, Wisconsin, began racing go-karts at age 4. He completed his first Late Model campaign in 2017, winning three races and scoring 13 top-10 finishes. He ended the year with a fifth-place run in the Myrtle Beach 400, a race Berry won. Mayer, the son of former IndyCar and road racer Scott Mayer, also competed in US Legend Cars Series events last year, winning the US Legend Car Winter Heat championship, the Summer Shootout and the US Legend Car Asphalt Nationals.

“We’re very happy to have a young driver of Sam’s caliber join us here at JR Motorsports,” said L.W. Miller, director of motorsports at JR Motorsports in a statement. “He’s accomplished a lot in his career already, including against the top Late Model talent in the Southeast, and he definitely has all the qualities we look for on the track and off it.”

“It will be a really exciting experience, to know that I’m with a top NASCAR team and a top Late Model team,” Mayer said in a statement. “I hope to be really competitive and have lots of fun while doing it. I’m confident with the way the team is going to treat me and the car, and excited about seeing what we can do together and what we can accomplish.”

JR Motorsports’ Late Model program is in its 17th year of competition. The team has scored 40 victories in the last three seasons — Berry has 21 wins in the last two seasons. Berry won the CARS Late Model Stock car owners title in 2016 and last year’s driver title.

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JR Motorsports adds Anthony Alfredo to Late Model operation

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JR Motorsports, owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr., has added 17-year-old Anthony Alfredo as a driver for its Late Model program in 2017.

A native of Ridgefield, Connecticut, Alfredo will drive the No. 8 Chevrolet in 20 Late Model races throughout the Southeast. He will be a teammate to Josh Berry, who will drive the No. 88.

“I am so grateful to have the opportunity to drive for JR Motorsports’ Late Model team this year,” Alfredo said in a press release. “I am very excited for the upcoming race season and look forward to furthering my progression as a driver with JRM. Being a teammate with Josh Berry is something that can help me improve a lot as I know I can learn so much from him.”

Alfredo was the 2016 champion in the Southeast Limited Late Model Series Pro Division with Lee Faulk Racing, where he won one race at Greenville Pickens Speedway and earned 15 top fives and 23 top 10s last year.

JR Motorsports is entering its 16th year of Late Model competition. The team has earned 40 victories during the last three seasons and two track championships since 2012.

Elliott Sadler wins Kentucky shootout in Chase opener

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With a push from Daniel Suarez, Elliott Sadler took the lead on a restart with four laps to go and never looked back, winning the Xfinity Series’s Chase opener at Kentucky Speedway.

Sadler fended off Suarez, Ryan Blaney and Sam Hornish Jr. to win his third race of the year and his second in four races.

The win meant even more for Sadler, whose mother, Bell Sadler, has been in the hospital recently.

“We fought through a lot tonight, but I’m going to get emotional now,” Sadler told NBCSN. “I’ve been in the hospital with my mom all week in the ICU. Watching her fight and fight through a lot of pain and suffering. Made her way back home tonight to watch the race.”

The JR Motorsports driver advances to the second round of the Chase with his win. The 41-year-old veteran has not finished worse than fourth in the last four races.

After starting third, Sadler fell back to 16th by the halfway point. Through pit strategy and a track-record 12 cautions, Elliott was in the top five by Lap 150. He led 11 laps including the final four.

“These guys (his team) are my heroes,” Sadler said. “We had a 10th- or 15th-place car at best. We decided to come in and really take our time and work on it … Got a good push there at the end (from Suarez).”

The final restart was caused by a crash between Chase favorite Erik Jones and Ty Dillon with 13 laps to go.

MORE: Race results

MORE: Xfinity point standings

WHO HAD A GOOD NIGHT: Both Sam Hornish Jr. and Justin Allgaier somehow fought back from a Lap 131 crash to finish fourth and ninth respectively. Allgaier is in the Chase, while Honrish was filling in for RCR’s No. 2 car …  Ryan Sieg, another Chase driver, spun to bring out the caution on Lap 117 and bounced back to finish 16th on the lead lap … Ryan Blaney gave the No. 22 car its third top-three finish in the last six races.

WHO HAD A BAD NIGHT: On a restart with 13 laps left, Erik Jones, who led a race-high 100 laps, got loose entering Turn 3 and collected Ty Dillon, sending both into the outside wall. Jones finished 28th and Dillon 27th  …. Chase driver Brandon Jones and Justin Marks wrecked on the frontstretch during a Lap 95 restart. Marks got loose exiting Turn 4 and spun into Jones, who was on his outside. Jones finished 26th … Marks brought out his third caution of the night when he spun by himself on Lap 124 and backed into the outside wall. Marks finished 15th … Josh Berry, running third, pancaked the Turn 4 wall with 18 laps to go. In his second and final start of 2016, Berry finished 13th.

NOTABLE: The race’s 12 cautions broke the track record of 10 … Elliott Sadler is the 13th different Xfinity winner at Kentucky in 20 races … Matt Tifft, in his first Xfinity race since brain surgery, finished fifth for the first top five of his career (eight starts) … Brendan Gaughan led 19 laps, his most since leading 22 in his 2014 Kentucky win.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “At halfway, we were running (16th). By my calculations, we were about 10th or 11th in points. To fight back those last 100 laps to get back that momentum means a lot to us.” – Elliott Sadler after winning at Kentucky.

NEXT: Drive Sober 200 at Dover International Speedway on Oct. 1 at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez lead first Xfinity practice at Kentucky

(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
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Joe Gibbs Racing swept the top two spots in the first Xfinity Series practice session at Kentucky Speedway.

Erik Jones led the session with a speed of 181.647 mph. Daniel Suarez followed at 181.467 mph.

The top fives was completed by Sam Hornish Jr., Ty Dillon and Brennan Poole.

Josh Berry, driving the No. 88, recorded the most laps with 32.

No driver recorded 10 consecutive laps.

Speed Chart

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William Byron signs with Hendrick, will drive in Xfinity for JR Motorsports in 2017

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William Byron, who has a record five wins this season as a rookie in the Camping World Truck Series, has signed with Hendrick Motorsports and will race for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series in 2017.

Byron, 18, leads the truck points standings in the middle of his first season with Kyle Busch Motorsports, which has served as a developmental program for Joe Gibbs Racing. Driving the No. 9 Toyota, Byron has five victories through 18 races (the previous record was four wins by Kurt Busch in 2000).

“Even before I started racing, it was a dream of mine to drive for Hendrick Motorsports,” Byron said in a team release. “I have so much respect for the way Mr. Hendrick supports his people and encourages everyone to work together. This is the biggest announcement and biggest opportunity of my life, and I will do everything I can to make the most of it. I’m proud to be part of this team.”

Byron has been racing for less than five years. After getting his start online with iRacing, Byron broke into competition in the U.S. Legends Young Lion Division in 2013 at the age of 15. In 69 races, he earned 59 top fives and 64 top-10 finishes.

In 2015, Byron won the K&N Pro Series East championship after posting four wins, five top fives and 11 top 10s.

“William is a special person and a special talent,” team owner Rick Hendrick said in the release. “It’s been impressive to watch him come up through the ranks and have success at every level. What he’s already accomplished this season has been remarkable. On top of all his ability, he’s a terrific young man from a great family, and we think he has a very bright future with our organization.”

Byron will be reunited with JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series. His first experience in full-sized stock cars was in JRM’s late-model program in 2014-2015.

MORE: NASCAR Next Q&A with William Byron

“I owe so much to Dale Jr. and everyone at JRM for taking a chance on me in 2014,” Byron said. “Looking back, I know none of this would’ve happened without that opportunity. I was there during Chase Elliott’s championship season and got to learn a lot. I know what they’re capable of, and I’m going to work really hard for them.”

The 18-year-old driver is a native of Charlotte, North Carolina, and grew up a fan of six-time champion Jimmie Johnson.

“(Hendrick) is just down the road in Concord and I’ve been to the shop a few times as a fan,” Byron told SiriusXm NASCAR Radio on Thursday. “I told Mr. Hendrick walking in now and being a part of it is really, really cool.”

Byron said the process of creating the deal began “a few weeks ago” with a phone call from Hendrick to let him know he wanted to meet with Byron “to put something together” and it ended with Byron singing with the team on Tuesday.

“I couldn’t be happier and it stuck right away, ” Byron said.

JR Motorsports’ current Xfinity driver lineup is comprised of Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier in full-time roles. Cole Custer, Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick, Kenny Habul and Josh Berry each have driven the team’s No. 88 car this season.

Sadler, 41, and Allgaier, 30, are former Sprint Cup drivers in their first seasons with JR Motorsports. It was announced earlier this season that Sadler’s sponsor, OneMain Financial, would not return in 2017.