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Jimmie Johnson hopes for ‘more crossover’ between auto racing stars

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For one day last November, Jimmie Johnson was the envy of the NASCAR community.

A week after the end of the Cup season, the seven-time Cup champion swapped rides with Formula One star Fernando Alonso and piloted a F1 car around the Bahrain International Circuit.

It was the third such swap between NASCAR and F1 drivers following the Jeff Gordon-Juan Pablo Montoya switch in 2003 at Indianapolis and the Tony Stewart-Lewis Hamilton swap in 2011 at Watkins Glen.

On Tuesday, Johnson expressed a desire to see “more crossover” between auto racing’s elite in competitive circumstances and to see stars moonlighting to support smaller series.

“I just think that in motorsports in general, we need guys to cross over from a local level,” Johnson said during Hendrick Motorsports’ media day after being asked about NASCAR’s influence in the Chili Bowl Nationals. “Although the Chili Bowl is huge, but they’re Midgets and more people typically get their starts (at that level).

“Our stars come back down and run and put on such a great show. That helps them and I think it helps us. It also helps that community and there are a lot of young drivers that are trying to find their way up.”

The Chili Bowl, held last week in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was won by Xfinity Series driver Christopher Bell for the third straight year. He had to battle Cup driver Kyle Larson in the final feature, with the outcome being decided with a last-lap pass.

Johnson then turned to the major racing series and the lack of crossover between them in recent years.

“Hopefully we can get more crossover going, even between IndyCar and NASCAR or NASCAR and Formula 1 or whatever it might be,” Johnson said. “I feel like we had a lot of heroes that we looked up to and those guys would race anything and everything.

“And in the last 20 or 30 years, we’ve focused more on championships than we have marquee events. And I completely understand why, but it’s really nice to see people trying to move around and race other things. Hopefully we’ll have somebody trying the double again at Indy and Charlotte. There is a lot of good that comes from those opportunities.”

Kurt Busch was the last driver to attempt “The Double” of competing in the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day in 2014.

The prospect of Larson, who competes for Chip Ganassi Racing, making the attempt has been brought up on a somewhat regular basis in recent years with Larson saying in July 2017 that violent IndyCar wrecks at IMS have kept him from committing to it.

Kyle Busch said in July 2017 he had committed to make an attempt at The Double before it was shut down by Joe Gibbs.

In 2016, Brad Keselowski teased everyone when he took a few laps around Road America in a Team Penske IndyCar during a test.

There were crossovers between IndyCar and NASCAR in 2018 with Danica Patrick competing in the Daytona 500 and Indy 500 and a Xfinity Series start by Conor Daly at Road America.

Other than that, the list of drivers who have expressed an interest in making the jump from open-wheel to stock cars without fulfilling it gets longer every year.

That goes both ways. In November, Johnson expressed a desire in giving IndyCar a try on road courses.

But Johnson said he doesn’t have any forays into other series planned right now.

“I have some great new friends at McLaren and they have lots of things getting involved with racing-wise,” Johnson said. “So, down the road there could be some opportunities there for me potentially. I’d love to go endurance racing with Fernando (Alonso).

“We joked about that some. Nothing has developed from that yet, but hopefully down the road we can send some more teasers out and have some more fun.”

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Karsyn Elledge, granddaughter of Dale Earnhardt, impresses in Chili Bowl debut

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While disappointed that she didn’t reach the final feature in the Chili Bowl, a granddaughter of Dale Earnhardt still had an impressive overall performance in her first appearance in the annual dirt track race in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Karsyn Elledge, daughter of JR Motorsports co-owner Kelley Earnhardt Miller and and niece of Dale Earnhardt Jr., won two heat races during the six-day event, including Saturday’s H feature, before being eliminated after a crash in the subsequent G Main, ending her hopes of making the week’s featured main event.

Still, the 18-year-old from Mooresville, North Carolina, who also won a heat race last Wednesday to kick things off, had a blast overall.

“Honestly, it was more than I could have hoped for,” Elledge told the Tulsa World. “I didn’t have high expectations for myself coming here. … We were able to start off with a heat race win (last Wednesday) that gave me the confidence to say, ‘OK, we can do this. We can fight with these guys.’”

Elledge, who drove for Tucker-Boat Motorsports, hopes to continue her budding racing career with more races this season, potentially in USAC competition. She certainly has the genes and showed last week that she has the talent to go forward.

“Overall, I can’t really complain about my Chili Bowl experience,” she told The World. “They knew we were here and they knew we were fast, and that’s really all you can ask for.

Her proud mom, as well as NASCAR Cup driver Bubba Wallace, took to social media to congratulate Elledge on a job well done.

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Landon Cassill set to make Chili Bowl debut

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Landon Cassill has added his name to the list of NASCAR drivers scheduled to compete in the 33rd annual Chili Bowl Nationals.

Cassill will race for Brooke Shuman Motorsports.

This will be Cassill’s first Chili Bowl attempt. He raced with this same team in the Driven2SaveLives BC39 at Indianapolis Motor Speedwat before this year’s Brickyard 400 but finished last in his heat race and failed to advance to the feature.

Cassill joins Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell and Kasey Kahne in the race.

As of Dec. 28, the entry list has grown to 334 entries. The 2018 edition featured 354 entries.

Other notable NASCAR affiliated drivers include Justin Allgaier, JJ Yeley, Tanner Berryhill and Alex Bowman.

Chase Briscoe has also been added to the entry list in the last 10 days.

The 2019 Chili Bowl will run from January 14-19.

Click here for the complete list.

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Christopher Bell, Kyle Larson highlight preliminary Chili Bowl list

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Last week, the preliminary entry list for the 2019 Chili Bowl sat at 200. As of Tuesday, Dec. 18 the entry list has swelled to 302 including several notable drivers with NASCAR connections.

Last year featured more than 350 entries.

Last year’s winner Christopher Bell will try to defend his title with his 2018 car owner Keith Kunz. Former Truck series driver, Rico Abreu will race as a teammate to Bell.

Kyle Larson hopes for a better outcome this year than his 19th from 2018.

Other notable drivers include:

Last year, Kasey Kahne advanced to ninth in his B-Main. In addition to the annual Midget race, he will compete in more than 50 sprint car races in 2019.

Justin Allgaier failed to finish his B-Main last year and was credited with an 18th in that race. Before advancing to the B, he finished second in his C-Main

JJ Yeley finished 12th in one of two B’s and failed to advance to the A.

Making her first Chili Bowl appearance will be Kelley Earnhardt Miller’s daughter Karsyn Elledge.

Tanner Berryhill hopes for better fortune in 2019. Last year, he advanced only as far as the J-Main.

Click here for the complete list.

Long: Why must-win situation was no pressure for Christopher Bell

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AVONDALE, Ariz. — In a season where Christopher Bell battled Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski to score Xfinity wins in back-to-back races in July and faced a must-win situation at Phoenix last weekend to advance to the Championship 4, such pressure situations don’t phase him.

“I feel like my mentors have just done such a good job of raising me throughout my young racing career and preparing me for moments like this,” Bell said after his victory last weekend at ISM Raceway. “I put so much pressure on myself for really any racing that we go do. Whenever I line up for the Chili Bowl heat race, I’m literally throwing up and that’s the most nervous, most pressure I feel of any race just because of what that race means to me. Today was nothing compared to that Chili Bowl heat race.”

Before people start bad-mouthing Bell for talking about dirt track racing over his main job in NASCAR, a couple of things.

One, there doesn’t need to be divide. This notion, which has been forced upon Kyle Larson after he’s talked about his fondness of racing in the World of Outlaws, is parochial.

NASCAR President Steve Phelps said in September that Larson should freely speak about his love of dirt track racing.

“We may be at the pinnacle of (short-track) racing from a popularity standpoint, but we can learn from them, they can learn from us, and we can promote each other in a far better way,” Phelps said. “So this notion of NASCAR trying to muzzle Kyle Larson and his love of racing couldn’t be further from the truth.

“We want Kyle Larson to talk about NASCAR racing and dirt racing and things that are his passion. We think he can bring his fan base from other forms of racing that he’s doing to us. And we can take our fans and bring them down to that racing as well, so we all get stronger by doing something.”

Second, so you understand. The way the Chili Bowl is set up, if one has a bad heat race, it can make a driver’s path to the A main on the final night infinitely harder. And the next chance to overcome something like that doesn’t happen for a year. So that’s why Bell, an Oklahoma native and two-time reigning champion of the event in his home state, feels such pressure for that event.

So he could be somewhat relaxed entering last weekend’s race at Phoenix. Bell said he had accepted the notion that he might not advance to the Xfinity championship race and that freed him from the shackles of pressure.

“For me, I have a problem of beating myself so if I sit here and say, ‘Hey, I have to win, my season’s on the line,’ then I’m more likely to beat myself,” he said. “We’ve won six races before today and it was a great year. Whenever I go into a season, my two goals are to win races and compete for the championship and we won races and we competed for the championship all the way up until things that were outside of our control happened. It was still a successful season in my standards. I’m happy that I’m still alive.”


There are many key decisions for NASCAR in the coming months from how long will Jim France serve as interim Chairman to finding ways to make teams more viable financially and ways to ensure close, competitive racing

Next season will be headlined by rule changes intended to improve the races, but NASCAR has signaled that there could be more dramatic moves in 2020, particularly to the schedule.

As NASCAR contemplates mid-week races, different venues, and ending the season sooner so there’s less conflict with football, here’s a little help to take one thing off the agenda.

There’s no need to change the final two races of the season.

Phoenix is the right track to be the last race before the season finale. It provides the short-track flair without having speeds so slow that it could create an endless amount of cautions late in the race as drivers bump their way to the front.

Even with the speeds, there have been memorable moments including Ryan Newman diving under Kyle Larson’s car, hitting it and using it to get through the final corner of the last lap to gain the position and advance to the title race in 2014. Last year, Matt Kenseth scored an emotional win, beating Chase Elliott, who exacted revenge against Denny Hamlin late in that race for Hamlin’s contact at Martinsville.

Phoenix allows the driver to be more of a factor than at many 1.5-mile tracks. Just look at Saturday’s Xfinity race where Austin Cindric, who had to win, was aggressive. At one point Cindric and Christopher Bell were dueling before Bell backed out and then worked his way back around Cindric. On a 1.5-mile track, where aerodynamics is so important, Bell might not have been able to have been as patient.

And there’s no need to change the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, which has provided among the best racing at a 1.5-mile track with its progressive banking on a consistent basis. The races have been dramatic and the track provides multiple lanes for drivers to work.

So NASCAR can play around with the schedule as much as it wants, but there’s no need to change the final two races of the schedule.


On the first day of trading since the news Friday that NASCAR had made a bid to purchase all outstanding shares of Class A and Class B common stock of International Speedway Corp., the stock price for ISC closed 8.78 percent higher than it opened. The closing price was $42.49. It is the highest the stock has closed since Oct. 1.


For the second weekend in a row, one organization swept the Xfinity and Cup races.

Stewart-Haas Racing did it at Texas with Cole Custer winning the Xfinity race and Kevin Harvick the Cup race.

Joe Gibbs Racing did it at Phoenix with Christopher Bell winning the Xfinity race and Kyle Busch the Cup race.