Chris Rice

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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Kaulig Racing ‘slowly’ building to two full-time cars in Xfinity

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Kaulig Racing has a plan for the future.

That plan is being executed “slowly on purpose,” according to team president Chris Rice, but it is being built with the intention of the Xfinity Series team fielding two full-time cars in 2020.

That plan, which involves fielding the No. 10 Chevrolet in select races this year, is being helped by multiple drivers, including Elliott Sadler.

Sadler competed in last Friday’s race at Richmond Raceway, the first of two scheduled starts this year, and finished 12th.

Rice, who appeared on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive” on Wednesday, explained how Sadler came to be involved with the team a year after his retirement from full-time racing and how a second car is helping rookie Justin Haley.

“I’m very good friends with Elliott,” said Rice. “Lived with Elliott. We still talk on a daily basis.”

Sadler came to Rice in the weeks before he announced his retirement from full-time racing last year. He let Rice know he had a sponsor, Nutrien Ag Solutions, that “I’ve got to do something else with it.”

At the end of January, the team announced Chastain – a watermelon farmer away from the track – would compete in three races for the team with the sponsor.

“It’s a perfect fit for Ross Chastain,” Rice said. “Elliott is giving back like what was given to him with Dale Jarrett with Ross Chastain. He’s doing kind of the same thing. … So it just worked out perfectly.”

Chastain competed for Kaulig in the season-opener at Daytona, leading 23 laps and finishing 13th.

While Chastain competes mainly for JD Motorsports in Xfinity, he will make his second of four starts with Kaulig Racing next weekend at Talladega. He’ll return to the No. 10 at Chicagoland Speedway (June 29) and Texas Motor Speedway (Nov. 2).

But the No. 10 effort doesn’t stop with Chastain or Sadler, who makes his second start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Sept. 14). Austin Dillon will make a second start in the car at Charlotte (May 25).

NASCAR on NBC analyst AJ Allmendinger also will drive the No. 10 in “quite a few races” that have yet to be announced. Rice said there are a number of open races on the car the team is looking to fill.

Everything done with the No. 10 is done with the intention of helping Haley, who Rice said has a two-year deal with Kaulig to drive the No. 11 Chevrolet. Through eight races with crew chief Nick Harrison, the rookie has six top 10s and a best finish of seventh twice.

Kaulig fields its cars with technical assistance from Richard Childress Racing. Kaulig is based in RCR’s Welcome, North Carolina campus.

“I think it’s a challenge for anybody when you don’t go each and every week and you’re kind of sporadic,” Rice said. “We have built our program slowly on purpose.

“We want to be ready when we go to the race track. We want that car to be helpful to the 11 car. We don’t want it to take away from the 11 car. That’s what we do. … It’s not two teams. It’s one team building two cars and that’s the way we work on them in the shop. Everybody works on everything. We have enough equipment to do it, we have enough stuff to do it, we have enough people, so it’s not that difficult. Just racing each and every week helps you to get into the swing of things.”

Rice, who was crew chief on the No. 11 for its first three years in the series, said the team puts an emphasis on people when putting together its No. 10 operation.

“Can you get the quality people and the people that you need to be able to mix in with the group that you already have?” Rice said. “Because if you get a bunch of people that do not get along, then it doesn’t work right. That’s in any business. I think it all revolves around people. I think about Stewart-Haas (Racing) and Hendrick (Motorsports) and those guys when they built those programs from one-car teams all the way up.”

This article has been corrected to state that Austin Dillon will compete in the May race in Charlotte, not the playoff race.

Nick Harrison named crew chief for Justin Haley at Kaulig Racing

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Nick Harrison will take over the role of crew chief on Kaulig Racing’s No. 11 Chevrolet this season, teaming with rookie Xfinity driver Justin Haley.

Harrison succeeds Chris Rice, who will serve as the team’s president.

Rice had been the team’s crew chief and general manager since 2016.

“I’m super happy to be moving into my new role as President of Kaulig Racing,” Rice said in a press release. “I’m very thankful to (team owners) Matt and Lisa Kaulig, as well as Kaulig Companies for this opportunity. We’ve had three years of success with this team, and we made the playoffs all three years. We have a great group of men and women, so it’s just an easy transition to move into that President role.”

Harrison has been a crew chief since 2006 and assumes the position at Kaulig Racing after five years at Richard Childress Racing, including being crew chief on the No. 3 Xfinity car last year.

Kaulig Racing’s headquarters are located on RCR’s campus in Welcome, North Carolina. It is part of a technical alliance with RCR.

“I’m super excited to be at Kaulig Racing,” Harrison said in a press release. “I’m thankful for the five years I’ve had at RCR prior to this, and I’m still in the same complex and running RCR equipment, so I don’t feel too out-of-place. We have a great group of guys at Kaulig Racing, and I feel like I have really hit the ground running. Justin is a proven winner in the truck series, and we plan on making a run for the title with him. He is fun to work with and has a great attitude. We had a great test in Atlanta, and we plan on building from that and going down to Daytona to start this season off with a bang.”

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2016 Season in Review: Blake Koch

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Blake Koch

CREW CHIEF: Chris Rice

TEAM: Kaulig Racing

POINTS: 7th (career-best)

WINS: 0

LAPS LED: 16 (career-high)

TOP 5s: 0

TOP 10s: 5 (career-high)

POLES: 0

WHAT WENT RIGHT: It was a career year for Koch in his move to Kaulig Racing as he earned the first top 10s of his career. Koch qualified for the inaugural Chase and finish seventh in points, which was the first time he finished inside the top 10 … Barely missed advancing to the final round at Homestead-Miami Speedway … Led a career-high 16 laps.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Still winless in his Xfinity Series career … Still has not recorded a top-five finish in his career … Missed advancing to the championship round at Homestead-Miami Speedway by four points … Recorded three DNFs.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2017: Koch will return to Kaulig Racing for their second year together and will continue to fight for his first career win.