Chris Rice

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Long: Even through pain, a smile emerges from Kaulig Racing’s Chris Rice

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Chris Rice punctuates tweets with #Happy and whatever day of the week it is. Co-workers hold him accountable if he doesn’t smile because he’s always encouraging people to smile. His goal is to make everyone feel good.

Even when he hurts.

The last few months have tested Rice, president of Kaulig Racing, in ways he couldn’t have imagined.

Nick Harrison, crew chief for Justin Haley’s team, died July 21. The team’s hauler crashed Wednesday on the way to Kansas Speedway for Saturday’s Xfinity race (3 p.m. ET on NBC). A few hours later, Rice found out his family’s dog, Kiki, was missing.

“The racing is minimal to what I’ve been through this year,” he said.

Still, Rice had reason to smile this week. Both the driver and backup driver in the team’s hauler escaped serious injuries. And Kiki was found a day later about 4 miles away.

Rice says faith has helped him through such challenging times. His voice softens when he talks about how he found out Harrison had suddenly died. Rice got a call from Harrison’s phone at 8:30 a.m. Sunday, a day after the New Hampshire Xfinity race.

‘When I picked up the phone and it was not Nick, it changed my life,” Rice said.

On the phone was one of Harrison’s friends. He told Rice that Harrison had been found dead.

Rice helped Kaulig Racing grieve for Harrison while continuing with the season and the demands a racing schedule presents. His message often was that each day will get better.

Then come days like Wednesday.

The team’s hauler driver had a medical issue and the truck ran through a guardrail, went down an embankment and crashed into a wooded area in Western North Carolina.

Rice went to the crash site. Seeing the overturned hauler and debris strewn, stunned Rice. The windshield was knocked out. Wheels turned backward. The hauler smashed.

“The shock of seeing how bad it was got to me more than anything else,” he said. “The joy is that (the drivers) lived through this.

“We can replace all that other stuff. The one thing we cannot replace is life.”

Later that day, Kiki, a 12-year-old lobsta obsta that Rice and his family rescued 11 years ago, went missing.

“When I was looking for my dog, we walked and we walked and we cried and we cried,” Rice said.

Any pet is special but few are a life saver. That’s Kiki.

Rice’s wife, Tammy, is allergic to shellfish. She had an allergic reaction one night about a year ago while asleep.

“(Kiki) woke my wife up,” Rice said. “Just kept beating on her, woke her up. If not, should have never woken up.”

Tammy posted on Facebook that they had lost the dog this week. The next day, they got a call that Kiki had been found.

Even then, Rice had his doubts. There had been some foxes and coyotes in their neighborhood at times.

When they arrived at the shelter, the dog was Kiki.

It was another reason for Rice to smile.

“I don’t know what day is coming next,” Rice said. “I take what we have today and try to make the best of it. When I wake up tomorrow, I’m glad I woke up and I am going to help the next person.”

 

Justin Haley gets new pit crew ahead of Xfinity Roval race

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CONCORD, N.C. — Kaulig Racing has swapped the pit crews on its two Xfinity Series cars ahead of today’s playoff race on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Chris Rice, the team’s president, moved the crew on its No. 10 car over to Justin Haley‘s No. 11 car following the playoff opener at Richmond Raceway. In that race Haley had a penalty for too many crew members over the wall.

Haley finished the race 17th after placing sixth in Stage 1.

“It’s playoff time and we can’t have mistakes,” Rice told NBC Sports.

Haley enters today’s race 11th in the 12-driver playoff standings. He is 20 points behind the final cutoff spot to advance to the second round.

Here’s Haley’s new pit crew lineup

Ian Anderson – Fueler (was on the No. 11 at Richmond)

Terry Spalding – Front Changer

Brian Bottlemy- Rear Changer

Jeremy Holcomb – Tire Carrier

Jordan Paige – Jack

Elliott Sadler to end NASCAR career with late model scheme, crew chief

Kaulig Racing
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This is it for Elliott Sadler, seriously.

Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) will be the last time he competes in NASCAR and auto racing in general.

“One hundred percent sure this is the last time I’ll ever put a helmet on,” Sadler told NBC Sports. “It definitely has a different feel to it than what we had at Homestead.”

Last year, Sadler ended his full-time racing career at Homestead-Miami Speedway with a 14th-place finish.

However, the 17-time NASCAR winner knew a potential opportunity awaited for him to climb behind the wheel again on a limited basis with sponsor Nutrien Ag Solutions.

“But this weekend I know this is the last time,” Sadler said.

His racing career will end with his second start in Kaulig Racing’s No. 10 Chevrolet following a start at Richmond Raceway in April (finished 12th). It will mark his 855th NASCAR start across all three national series.

“That’s a lot isn’t it?” Sadler says after a hearty laugh. “That’s too many. Look, I’m very fortunate. That’s a mind-boggling stat. 855 starts from a little, small-town boy in Emporia, Virginia. That’s a lot of time to strap on a helmet to go racing.”

Sadler, 44, will get to honor his Virginia roots in a way he’d hoped to in the Miami race 10 months ago.

Source: Kaulig Racing

His car will be made to look like the yellow and black No. 16 late model stock car he raced in the mid-90s before he made the jump to the NASCAR stage.

Sadler said Kaulig Racing “caught me off guard” when they surprised him with the scheme Monday.

“I begged my sponsors last year at Homestead to let me run that paint scheme. But it wasn’t meant to be. For (sponsor Nutrien Ag Solutions) to give up a paint scheme to let me do it means a lot,” Sadler says. “(It’s) a paint scheme that is very near and dear to my family. All of my dad’s gas stations and transport trucks and everything are painted the exact same way. So it’s a color that means a lot to us. For (team president) Chris (Rice) and (team owner) Matt (Kaulig) and those guys, everybody at Nutrien Ag Solutions to let us go out with that color. That’s pretty special.”

Adding to the nostalgia is who will be calling the shots for Sadler atop his pit box – Chris Rice.

Rice will return to a role he’s familiar with. He served as Sadler’s crew chief during Sadler’s late model days. Their relationship started in 1992 when Rice began working with Sadler’s brother, Hermie.

“Chris and I kind of pretty much started living together in 1994,” Sadler said. “Then in 1995, we got our breakout season, setting all kinds of records in the late model stock-car world in Southern Virginia. We got a special relationship. I think we helped each other a lot in getting our careers to where they are today. I think we have a lot to be thankful for and it’s pretty cool for it to come full circle to where we first started.”

Together, Sadler and Rice earned the South Boston Speedway track championship in 1995.

Rice was the one who revealed the scheme to Sadler.

Together, Sadler hopes they give the scheme a better send-off than it got the last time he drove it on a late model in 1996 at Martinsville Speedway.

“I think we were in a bad wreck in Martinsville,” Sadler said. “We blew a right-front tire.”

As for the race itself on Saturday, Sadler isn’t going to layover for the young guns who have been competing all season.

“I’m not going out there to play tiddlywinks,” said Sadler. “It’s still racing and I still have a very competitive nature and I want to go compete.”

When it’s all over, win or lose, Sadler will retreat to his retired life. No more sponsor plugs for this former driver.

Right?

“I don’t think that’s true,” said Sadler. “I’ve moved on to my next life, which involves a lot of sponsor plugs and corporate sponsor stuff.”

His new retired life includes leading a traveling baseball and softball organization.

“It’s still a lot to do,” said Sadler. “Maybe the last time having to do (a sponsor plug) with a racing uniform on.”

Kaulig Racing mourns death of crew chief Nick Harrison

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Kaulig Racing President Chris Rice said that when he heard of crew chief Nick Harrison’s death on Sunday morning, he thought back to a conversation they had after Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Justin Haley finished 13th in that race.

“All I could think about with Nick is when he got up on the plane and he came over and talked to me as we were leaving New Hampshire,” Rice said Monday night on “Late Shift” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

“He was stressed out that we didn’t run that well. He looked at me and he goes, ‘You know, we sucked there.’ I said, ‘Nick, we have sucked at New Hampshire for a long time. So the good thing is, we’ve changed drivers, we’ve changed crew chiefs, ain’t nothing fixed it, so it’s obviously something, whatever we’re doing.’

“He said, ‘You’re right. We’re going to go get them at Iowa.’ He was worried about the next race.”

Harrison died Sunday. He was 37. Harrison’s brother, Zach, told the Tennessean that a cause of death has not been determined.

“We know that he lived every single day to the fullest,” Rice said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio about Nick Harrison. “That’s what we want to do at Kaulig Racing. Tomorrow when we show up, it is going to be better than what it was today. The next day we show up is going to be better than what it was Monday.”

Rice also said it will be a challenge for the team when they get to the track this weekend at Iowa Speedway.

“We just know that walking into the race track this weekend is going to be tough,” Rice said, “so we need every fan’s support that we can get for all my guys and myself and we’ll definitely make it through it.”

Rice said on “Late Shift” that he will serve as Haley’s crew chief for the foreseeable future.

“You cannot replace Nick,” said Rice, who has served as an Xfinity Series crew chief for 318 races. “We will never replace Nick. We will just have somebody fill his job. But right now we’re not in a hurry to do anything.

“We will definitely be looking and looking at what our next step is. Justin has another year and a half, if not even more, with Kaulig Racing and we will put somebody with him that is going to be there through that time. We don’t want to put somebody that is going to be with us for 10 days or three months or whatever. We will want to look at somebody that is going to help us grow Kaulig Racing.”

Harrison’s service is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET July 30 at Spring Hill High School in Columbia, Tennessee. The family has requested that memorial donations be made to the Nick Harrison Scholarship Fund at First Farmers & Merchants Bank in Spring Hill, Tennessee or Spring Hill Memorial Funeral Home.

“We know it’s going to take time for us to get over the loss of our friend not being here,” Rice said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “We will always miss him, but we will never forget him and he’ll always be with us. We’re going to dig like he would want us to dig.

“Once Justin makes the playoffs, it’s going to be in memory of Nick. Once Justin makes it to the final four and goes for that championship, that’s what it’s going to be for.”

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AJ Allmendinger to drive in Watkins Glen Xfinity race for Kaulig Racing

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NASCAR On NBC analyst AJ Allmendinger will climb back behind the wheel for the August 3 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Watkins Glen International.

Allmendinger will pilot the No. 10 Chevrolet for Kaulig Racing for the second time this season.

Allmendinger is a past winner at Watkins Glen, having won the 2014 Cup race there. He has 10 prior Cup starts at the upstate New York road course, with the win, three top-five and six top-10 finishes, plus one pole.

He also has competed in one Xfinity race at Watkins Glen, starting fourth and finishing second for GMS Racing last year.

It’s an honor to be able to compete for Kaulig Racing at one of my favorite tracks, Watkins Glen International,” Allmendinger said in a team release. “I’ve been fortunate enough to win there in the Cup Series and had a strong run finishing second last season in my only Xfinity start there.

Matt Kaulig, Chris Rice and all of the guys made Daytona so enjoyable and fun, I can’t wait to get to The Glen.”

Allmendinger raced for Kaulig Racing two weeks ago in the Circle K Firecracker 250 at Daytona International Speedway on July 5, leading 33 laps and finishing third before the car was disqualified for failing post-race inspection, leaving Allmendinger with a last-place finish in the 38-car field.

Allmendinger has three additional Xfinity road course races scheduled with Kaulig Racing this season: Mid-Ohio (August 10), Road America (August 24) and Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Roval race (September 28).

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