Chase Cabre

Friday 5: Xfinity driver’s quest for success goes one call at a time

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“Hey, my name is Brandon. What do you think of NASCAR?”

That’s not how Xfinity Series driver Brandon Brown starts every phone call looking for sponsorship, but sometimes it’s not too far off.

While other drivers watch film, run laps on iRacing, work out or fulfill sponsor obligations during the week, Brown often is on the phone looking for sponsorship for his family’s team.

That’s life in the middle of the field in the Xfinity Series where the chassis are older, sponsorships harder to find, pit crew members interchangeable and results are overshadowed by the dominance of Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer.

Through it all — and that includes Brown moving from his family’s primary car to another ride twice because someone else brought sponsorship money — Brown is 14th in points heading into Sunday’s Xfinity race at Iowa Speedway.

He is 97 points out of the final playoff spot, held by Joe Gibbs Racing’s Brandon Jones. While the playoffs would be quite an accomplishment, it will be difficult for a team such as Brown’s to top many of the better-funded organizations ahead.

Even so, Brown is reaching one of his goals for the season.

Brandon Brown (right) races Jeremy Clements (51), Justin Haley (11) and Jeffrey Earnhardt (18) at Charlotte last month. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

“Our focus this year was to crack the top 15,” he told NBC Sports. “Getting a top-10 finish would be great. I don’t want it to be because the leaders wrecked. Superspeedways, we can count them if we want, but that’s like a crapshoot. We want to earn a top 10 this year.”

He hasn’t gotten there yet. Brown finished a career-best 13th this season at Atlanta, Dover and Pocono.

It’s not easy to get into the top 10 with a fleet of older chassis that includes those once driven by John Wes Townley at Athenian Motorsports. Brown said the team also added some Richard Childress Racing chassis when RCR downsized its program.

There have been other changes throughout the season. Brown has had seven different pit crew combinations in the first 13 races because not everyone they’ve used is always available. With tenths of a second often the difference between gaining or losing spots on pit road, the less a crew and driver are familiar with each other, the longer it can take to complete stops.

“When you’re switching to new guys, I don’t think they know what to expect (from the driver) until after the first stop,” he said.

Brown’s biggest challenge, though, is money, especially for a team with fewer than a dozen full-time employees. Even Brown has a dual role. The team’s website lists him as marketing director/driver.

That means the 25-year-old makes a lot of phone calls.

“The goal is obviously to search for any company that has expressed any interest in motorsports at all, whether it is circle track racing, road course racing, dirt bike, whatever,” Brown told NBC Sports. “Also, it kind of comes down to who do we know, who do any friends and family know, try to make some sort of a connection so that it’s not a complete cold (call), ‘Hey my name is Brandon, what do you think of NASCAR?’

“It’s going through everybody’s rolodex in the shop because a lot of the guys come from different areas, try to pull from each one of them.”

For every phone call that provides hope, there are many more rejections or calls that aren’t returned.

Brandon Brown has finished in the top 20 in 11 of the season’s first 13 Xfinity races. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

“It’s definitely tedious,” said Brown, who graduated from Coastal Carolina University in December. “It’s not the most fun at all. I understand that each and every team in the garage in some shape or form has gone through something similar. I just kind of throw it up to growing pains and just kind of look forward to … a day where I can just go to the track and come home and just focus on watching film or doing a simulator.”

Until then, he’ll keep looking for money for Brandonbilt Motorsports, which is running its first full-time season in NASCAR.

Brown ran the season’s first seven Xfinity races without a primary sponsor. He has had a sponsor in five of the past six races. Vero True Social is back as a sponsor this weekend at Iowa after it served in that role at Charlotte and Michigan.

“It all comes down to the dollar that keeps the race team alive,”  Brown said.

He will remain in the No. 86 for the foreseeable future since no one has purchased any more races at this time.

Even with all the challenges, Brown has made gains. His season-worst 26th-place finish last weekend at Michigan ended a streak of five consecutive top-20 finishes. Despite not having sponsorship early in the season, he opened with six top 20s in a row.

“We want to peg up the ladder,” Brown said. “We understand as a team where we are in comparison to the rest of the garage.”

That doesn’t mean he’s satisfied with staying there. So he keeps calling, searching for the money that will help this team climb higher.

2. Familiar foes

Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer have combined to win each of the last seven Xfinity races heading into Iowa Speedway this weekend.

Reddick has three wins during that stretch, while Bell and Custer each have two wins.

Reddick notes how competition between helps make each better.

“Every single week and every single lap I feel like, if say I’m leading and they’re catching me, I push harder, if I’m catching them, they push harder,” Reddick told NBC Sports of Bell and Custer. “Most people I’m able to run down and catch and make something happen, but those two are definitely the hardest to pass. They work the hardest to keep you behind them. It’s a lot of fun battling with them.”

3. Wanting to scream!

Chase Cabre did just that after winning his first K&N Pro Series East race June 2 at Memphis International Raceway. The win came in his 33rd career series start.

Chase Cabre celebrating his NASCAR K&N Pro Series East win June 2. (Photo: Nigel Kinrade/NKP, NASCAR)

Cabre, in his third season in the series, had three runner-up finishes, including two this year, before the win.

OK, so once the celebration in victory lane is done, the car passes inspection, and it’s time to leave, then what?

Cabre drove back to the Charlotte area with his mom and brother but first they stopped for dinner at a Red Robin restaurant.

“It’s funny how the emotions change so fast,” Cabre told NBC Sports. “You get out, you’re screaming and the next thing you know you want everybody to realize I won. (At the restaurant), nobody here knows you won.

“They have no clue. ‘What are you so excited about?’ “

If only they knew.

4. Truck debut

Sixteen-year-old Chandler Smith makes his Gander Outdoors Truck Series debut this weekend at Iowa Speedway. He’ll be in the No. 51 for Kyle Busch Motorsports. The Toyota development driver has three ARCA wins and six poles in 13 starts. His most recent ARCA victory was May 19 at Toledo (Ohio) Speedway.

Smith also is scheduled to drive for KBM on June 28 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, Aug. 15 at Bristol Motor Speedway and Nov. 7 at ISM Raceway. He will drive the KBM Super Late Model Oct. 13 at the Winchester (Speedway) 400, Nov. 3 in the All-American 400 at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway and Dec. 2 in the Snowball Derby.

5. Chastain’s chase

In his first Truck series race since declaring for Truck points, Ross Chastain scored 38 points for his 10th-place finish last week at Texas Motor Speedway.

He must be in the top 20 in points to be eligible for a playoff spot should he win. His Kansas victory does not count toward playoff eligibility because he had not declared for Truck points at the time.

Chastain enters this weekend 64 points out of 20th place in the season standings. Anthony Alfredo is 20th with 102 points.

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Anthony Alfredo joins DGR-Crosley in 2019

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DGR-Crosley announced 19-year-old Anthony Alfredo will compete with the team part-time in 2019 in the Gander Outdoors Truck series. Alfredo is part of the NASCAR Next program.

Last year, Alfredo won a 100-lap K&N Pro Series East series race at South Boston after taking the lead from Chase Cabre on the last lap. Alfredo had three more top fives and nine total top 10s in 14 starts.

In 2017, he won twice in the CARS Late Model series at Hickory Speedway driving for Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“Going to DGR-Crosley next season is a huge opportunity for me,” said Alfredo in a press release. “To be able to work with David (Gilliland), who’s not only the owner but also someone who has a lot of racing experience, is going to be very beneficial. They have a great group of hardworking, knowledgeable people in their shop which is going to make the transition to Trucks a lot smoother for me. They’ve had a lot of success at every level they’ve competed in, and it’s a dream come true to be able to race for them at the national level.

“Making it to the Cup Series is the end goal, and I feel like I’m one step closer to where I want to be. I can’t thank everyone who has made this possible and supported me throughout my career enough, especially my family and sponsors who continually believe in me.”

DGR-Crosley says Alfredo is expected to make his Truck Series debut at Atlanta Motor Speedway. A full schedule will be released at a later date.

“I’m excited to have Anthony on board next season,” said Gilliland in the press release. “I watched him all year in the K&N Series and he did a great job. He’s a talented racer and has shown that he has the drive to keep getting better. He’s a great fit for our program at DGR-Crosley and going to do a very good job for us next season in the Truck Series.”

NASCAR Drive for Diversity program announces 2019 class

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The NASCAR Drive for Diversity Driver Development Program announced its 2019 class with Rev Racing Thursday.

The six-member class includes four returning members.

Gracie Trotter and Brooke Storer are the new members.

The six drivers were selected from 12 national and international drivers invited to participate in the two-day NASCAR Drive for Diversity Driver Development Combine at New Smyrna Speedway and Bethune-Cookman University in October.

The drivers will compete for Rev Racing in the K&N Pro Series East and NASCAR Whelen All-American Series for one full season with mentoring and equipment provided by the race team. 

Since Rev Racing began fielding cars for the Drive for Diversity program in the K&N East in 2010, it has earned 19 wins, 88 top fives and 199 top-10 finishes with drivers finishing in the top 10 in points each season.

Here’s the 2019 class.

Chase Cabre, 21, Tampa, Florida – Cabre will return to Rev Racing for his third season. In 2018, he competed in both the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series and NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, where he finished seventh in the championship standings. Cabre will again compete in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East in 2019.

Ernie Francis Jr., 20, Southwest Ranches, Florida – In 2014, Francis Jr. became the youngest Trans-Am champion in series history. This past season, he captured his fifth consecutive series championship title. Francis will race a Late Model for Rev Racing and run in select events in the K&N Pro Series East.

Rubén García Jr., 23, México City, México – In 2015, García Jr. became the youngest driver to win the NASCAR Peak Mexico Series Championship. He won his second championship this year in the series. García Jr. also earned his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race win at Memphis International Raceway in 2018 followed with a victory at Dover International Speedway in October. García Jr. will continue racing in the K&N Pro East Series.

Nick Sanchez, 17, Homestead, Florida – Sanchez completed his NASCAR Whelen All-American Series rookie season in 2018. He also raced in the Bojangles Summer Shootout with Rev Racing’s Legends Car program and finished sixth in championship points. Sanchez will race in a Late Model for Rev Racing.

Brooke Storer, 20, Land O’ Lakes, Florida – Storer is the 2016 Desoto Speedway Sportsman Champion. This past season, she raced in the Wheel Man Series Late Model Sportsman division capturing two 50-lap feature wins. In 2017, she placed third in points in the Wheel Man Series. Storer will race a Late Model for Rev Racing in 2019.

Gracie Trotter, 17, Denver, North Carolina – Trotter is the winner of Round 5 of the Bojangles Summer Shootout in the Semi Pro division. In 2018 she competed in the CARS Tour & PASS Series at Concord, Hickory, Caraway, Orange Country, South Boston and Carteret County. She also raced USLCI Legend cars at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord, Anderson, Tri-County and Caraway. Trotter will race a Late Model for Rev Racing in 2019.

Ryan Vargas, who did not make the Rev Racing lineup after being with the program last year, expressed his thanks to the team and wrote that “I apologize to everyone who’s supported me. I feel as if I let you all down (by not making the team for 2019).”

NASCAR announces 12 invitees to Drive for Diversity combine

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NASCAR announced the 12 drivers invited to compete for the 2019 Drive for Diversity program on Monday. The dozen drivers have competed on three continents in a variety of racecars.

“The drivers invited to this year’s NASCAR Drive for Diversity Driver Development Combine represent a wide range of diverse backgrounds, both in terms of heritage and driving disciplines,” said Jusan Hamilton, NASCAR senior manager of racing operations and event management in a press release. “The combine has been tremendous in helping the NASCAR industry identify and develop top diverse talent and this year is no different.”

Rev Racing serves as the on-track partner for the Drive for Diversity program. Since the inception of the program, Rev Racing has earned 19 wins, 88 top fives and 186 top-10 finishes.

The combine will help set their lineup in 2019.

“As we embark upon our 11th year managing the Drive for Diversity program in partnership with NASCAR, we couldn’t be more excited about the evolution of our driver development program,” said Max Siegel, CEO of Rev Racing. “Through selection process and training program we look forward to selecting and developing some of NASCAR’s brightest stars.”

In addition to testing their skill behind the wheel of a racecar, candidates will undergo a physical fitness assessment as well as tests to determine their ability to effective communicate and market sponsors.

This year’s combine invitees include Ruben Garcia Jr. – current points leader in the NASCAR Peak Mexico Series.

Trans Am standout Ernie Francis Jr. will also compete. He has scored four wins in this series in 2018 and currently leads the series standings

Chase Cabre, Juan Manuel González, Loris Hezemans, Perry Patino, Nick Sanchez, Brooke Storer, Ryu Taggart, Gracie Trotter, Ryan Vargas and Brittney Zamora round out the list.

Zamora became the first female driver to win the Northwest Super Late Model Series Championship in 2017.

These hopefuls look to follow in the footsteps of Kyle Larson, Daniel Suarez and Bubba Wallace – all of whom have gone through the program.

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NASCAR announces 2018 Drive for Diversity class

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NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity class for 2018 will feature six drivers.

Ruben Garcia Jr. will be back for a third season. He will be joined by Chase Cabre, Ernie Francis Jr., Nick Sanchez, Ryan Vargas and Isabella Robusto.

“We are thrilled with the level of talent that applied for the program, were invited to the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine and, ultimately, the six who were selected to drive for Rev Racing in 2018,” said Max Siegel, CEO of Rev Racing, in a statement. “As we’ve seen the program evolve over the years and produce wins and champions, and help elevate drivers such as Daniel Suárez, Kyle Larson and Darrell Wallace Jr. to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, these drivers have the ability and potential to carry that legacy forward.”

The new class:

       • Chase Cabre, 20, Tampa, Florida. Cabre finished sixth in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship standings and was runner-up for Sunoco Rookie of the Year. He won the 21 Means 21 Pole Award twice and recorded four top-five finishes. He will return to compete in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and will also race a Late Model in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.

       • Ernie Francis Jr., 19, Dania, Florida. Francis has already locked up his fourth Trans Am Series championship, becoming the youngest driver in series history to do so. He has 32 Trans Am Series wins – the most in series history – and 15 Pirelli World Challenge victories. Francis will be a development driver with Rev Racing, running road-course events in the K&N Pro Series East and select Late Model events, as well as testing, as he transitions to oval-track racing. 

  • Rubén García Jr., 21, Mexico City, Mexico. García will return to Rev Racing for his third season. The 2015 NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series champion finished fifth in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East this year and is third in the PEAK Mexico Series standings with one race remaining. The NASCAR Next graduate will join Cabre in the K&N Pro East in addition to racing in the Late Model.

      • Nick Sanchez, 16, Homestead, Florida. Sanchez finished fifth in the 10-race Bojangles Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway with Rev Racing’s Legends Car program last year, and will move up to the team’s full-time Late Model in 2018. Sanchez had a win among five podium finishes in the Summer Shootout.

      • Ryan Vargas, 17, La Mirada, California. Vargas won the Wendell Scott Trailblazer Award in 2016 as the highest finishing multicultural or female driver in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division I. He was runner-up for NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Josten’s Rookie of the Year for California in 2016 while racing at Irwindale and Bakersfield’s Kern County Raceway Park and the Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. This season, he scored a pair of wins to finish third in the state standings and 16th in the national standings. Vargas will drive in the third full-time K&N Pro Series East car and also race in the Late Model. 

      • Isabella Robusto, 13, Fort Mill, South Carolina. Robusto will anchor Rev Racing’s Youth Driver Program as she returns to the team to drive in the Legends car. Robusto will be one of four youth development drivers, with the remaining three to be announced at a later date. She was third overall at the Bandolero Winter Nationals and was the South Carolina Legends Young Lions champion in 2016 and was third overall in points in the Bojangles Summer Shootout Series in 2015.

NASCAR Drive for Diversity aligns drivers with a team of executives, athletic directors, crew chiefs and mentors tasked with helping them achieve career successes, and thus improving their goal of reaching one of the three NASCAR national series.