In addition to his work as a NASCAR on NBC analyst, A.J. Allmendinger will increase his on-track presence in 2020, competing in eight Xfinity Series races for Kaulig Racing.
That’s an increase from the five races Allmendinger drove for Kaulig last season, including a win on the Charlotte ROVAL and a third-place finish at Mid-Ohio.
“I’m looking forward to returning to the Kaulig Racing organization,” Allmendinger said in a media release. “I had so much fun working with everyone on the team last season and being teammates with Justin (Haley) and Ross (Chastain).
“Hopefully, I can help the team in any way possible so that we can build on the success we had last year and go for more wins. More than anything, Kaulig Racing is just a great team to compete for, especially with Matt Kaulig as the owner and Chris Rice as the President of the team.”
Allmendinger’s eight races will be the Xfinity season opener at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 15 as well as the Aug. 28 race there, Talladega (April 25), Mid-Ohio (May 30), Indianapolis (July 4), Road America (Aug. 8), Watkins Glen (Aug. 15), and the ROVAL at Charlotte Motor Speedway (Oct. 10).
This will be Kaulig Racing’s fifth season of operation and its first with two full-time entries.
“AJ has played an instrumental role in competition for Kaulig Racing,” Rice said in the press release. “He has helped guide our road course program and has been a great resource for our other drivers, crew chiefs and engineers to lean on. I look forward to what he can do in more races for us this season.”
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.
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
“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.
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.
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”