HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks

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Former NASCAR owner Harry Scott passes away

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Harry Scott Jr., who owned NASCAR teams in the Cup, Xfinity, and K&N Pro Series East, died Wednesday. He was 51.

“We are shocked and saddened to confirm that Harry Scott, Jr., age 51, passed away yesterday, August 2, 2017,’’ the family said in a statement. “Harry will be remembered as a loving family man and successful business owner. We ask that everyone please keep Harry’s smile, generosity and essential kindness in your thoughts and prayers. Details about funeral services will be announced when they are finalized.”

NASCAR issued a statement: “Harry Scott Jr. possessed an endless passion for racing. Owning cars in the national series and the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, his crowning achievements were his NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championships. The sport was proud to have Harry as our champion owner during that storybook era. NASCAR extends its deepest condolences to his family and friends.”

Among those who drove for Scott were William Byron (K&N), Ben Rhodes (K&N), Kyle Larson (Cup & Xfinity), Bobby Labonte (Cup), Clint Bowyer (Cup), Justin Allgaier (Cup & Xfinity) and Michael Annett (Cup).

Scott entered NASCAR as a sponsor in 2008. In 2011, he became an owner in Turner Motorsports’ Xfinity team. In 2013, he became co-owner with Steve Turner of the rebranded Turner Scott Motorsports team.

Scott moved to Cup when he purchased James Finch’s Phoenix Racing team in 2013, forming HScott Motorsports. In 2014, Scott partnered with Justin Marks to form HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks in the K&N East Pro Series. Rhodes won the 2014 title. Byron won the 2015 series title.

Scott announced last year he would not be fielding any teams in 2017.

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Hardest part of the K&N East season comes Saturday for Justin Haley

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Last December Justin Haley sat in the back of the room at the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East banquet with what he cracked was his “participation trophy” for finishing sixth in points.

Haley watched as William Byron enjoyed all the perks of being the champion. Then he turned to his family.

“I said, ‘You know, that’d be cool to be up there,’ and they told me we’d get it this year,” Haley told NBC Sports during a champion’s outing at GoPro Motorplex on Thursday. “I guess I get to experience it now and see what it’s like.”

Haley will be formally honored Saturday at the NASCAR Night of Champions Touring Awards. He’s looking forward to going from the back of the room to the spotlight at the front. It will be a nice feeling to be recognized and know his face will be the one on the screen all those in attendance will be looking at.

There’s just one thing about Saturday night Haley is not looking forward.

“The speech is low on my list,” he said with a laugh.

Speaking in front of the room filled with champions and competitors from the NASCAR K&N West Series, Pinty’s Series, Whelen Euro Series, as well as the Whelen Modified and Southern Modified Tour, might be the only thing that trips Haley up this season.

He made winning his first championship look easy with 14 top-10 finishes in 14 races. He finished no worse than ninth in those 14 races and had two victories and three poles. His average finish was 3.4.

It’s worth noting that 2016 was just his second full-time season and he entered it still looking for his first career win. Haley lets out a laugh of disbelief when talking about his statistics.

“We had 14 races and 13 top fives, which was incredible,” Haley said. “The other race we finished ninth in, which we were running third at Mobile (International Speedway) and it was my fault because I jumped a restart, so we should have 14 top fives. But it’s incredible because it goes to show HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks gave me a fast car but also a reliable car.”

There was also the luck factor, Haley admitted. His No. 5 Chevrolet wasn’t one to find trouble through cut tires or mechanical failures. He also led a total of 216 laps on the year.

“We had tons of luck on our side, which is great,” Haley said. “A season like that doesn’t come often. But I was just super thankful when I saw (my numbers) and just to have all that luck – it was really a season that you don’t come by very often, and I was lucky to just put my name on the map a little bit more.”

Since winning the championship at Dover International Speedway on Sept. 30, Haley has enjoyed all the obligations that come with his accomplishment, as well as the various Twitter notifications, which he called “pretty exciting.” The night prior the karting outing at GoPro Motorplex, Haley and his fellow Touring and Weekly Series champions were welcomed to the NASCAR Hall of Fame where they had dinner and placed their names in the Whelen Hall of Champions.

Haley also recently celebrated in the Bahamas by going on a cruise with his team. Each experience has been thrilling for the 17-year-old. But it all leads to the hardest part yet.

“It’s been done for a while,” Haley said of his banquet speech. “We’ll practice it a few more times. It’s definitely going to be – we’ll see how many times I can stumble.”

Justin Haley’s K&N East title a family affair

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The morning of the most important race of his career, Justin Haley sought the council of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Dover International Speedway, site of the K&N Pro Series East season finale on Sept. 30, was drenched in rain that morning. But the finale wouldn’t begin until late afternoon, giving the 17-year-old Haley plenty of time to get “in the right mindset” for the 126-lap race.

If he finished 25th or better, he would be the series champion. No big deal. How did he get his mind prepared for such an occasion?

On Haley’s phone is an app called “Motivate.” It contains seven motivational recordings, with titles that include “Arnold’s Wisdom,” “Prove Them Wrong” and “Why Do We Fall?” Ranging between three and a half to nine minutes, the recordings are spliced together snippets from sermons, famous speeches and movies, including the “Rocky” franchise.

“It’s almost like listening to Bible verses, just a little more amped up,” Haley says. “I listened to (all of them). I listened to them before I went to bed the previous night, I listened to them while I was in the shower. Getting in that mindset was the biggest thing and just wanted to be extra sure I could use that, and I could deliver the best performance in my ability to my team that day.”

While Stallone and Schwarzenegger may have psyched Haley up on the day, they were only reinforcing the work done over the last eight years by his parents.

OUT OF TOWN

Melissa Braun-Dennis was nervous.

Unlike her husband, Nate Dennis, she wasn’t in Dover to experience her son’s big day.

Instead, she was about 730 miles west in Winamac, Indiana, the town she and her family spent their entire lives in until Haley’s budding racing career uprooted them to Charlotte, North Carolina, last year. She was back home in Northern Indiana visiting her oldest daughter, who attends a preparatory school that was holding its first “Parent’s Day” of the year.

“I had to sit out on this one,” says Braun-Dennis, a mother of four. “It was pretty hard to do that.”

It was hard because even with Haley’s 25-point cushion for the championship, there were lingering doubts.

“There was always that thought of ‘What if?’ ” says Braun-Dennis. “What if we’ve come this far and it doesn’t happen and how are we going to handle ourselves tomorrow? How are we going to be able to recover quickly and not let this really get us down?”

As the laps ticked off in Dover, Haley’s mother drove down the highway to her mother-in-law’s house. The road didn’t always have her attention.

“I had the race on my phone and was trying to check it periodically … safely, while driving down the road,” Braun-Dennis says. “There was a point where I actually had to get out of the car and go inside a gas station to get a drink because I was so nervous.”

Braun-Dennis finally arrived at her mother-in-law’s for dinner. She entered the house to “all the aunts and uncles … staring at their phones.”

She began waiting for a specific message from her husband.

GROWING PAINS

Nate Dennis has witnessed every lap of his stepson’s career.

It began when a 9-year-old Haley asked his mother if he could pursue a career in quarter midgets after driving a cousin’s quarter-midget at a birthday party.

“He was showing it to all of us,” Haley recalls. “I was like ‘Man, that’s pretty cool. Can I just drive it around the driveway a few laps?’ They got it down for me, pushed me off. I think it turned into a few hundred laps. I spent countless hours there in a quarter midget and then went to my mom and said ‘I want one of these.'”

“As long as Nate does it with you, I’m fine with it,” his mother said.

Haley’s first days in a quarter midget, when they raced two cars through four classes, was the beginning of what Dennis called a “kind of funky” progression for Haley.

“Quarter midget kids start practicing at four and a half and you race at five,” Dennis says. “Justin didn’t even race in a race car until he was nine, nine and a half. I always felt like we were behind them. At the mini sprint stage, it kind of evened out a bit, where there were some kids who had been doing it the same amount of time or longer.”

But Dennis himself was as much a rookie as his stepson.

“He didn’t know a thing about racing except being a spectator, which we all know is very different from the other side of racing,” says his wife, who grew up in a family that had been around racing since the 70s. “(Nate) basically put himself out there and started asking questions and bothering people. He learned it so quickly that he found the right people for Justin and when you surround yourself with good people, good things happen.”

For a few years Haley ran street stocks and mini sprints simultaneously. It wasn’t until Haley finished second in the 2012 Tulsa Shootout in the non-winged stock class that Dennis thought “maybe we’re not wasting money.”

But Haley wasn’t seeing his family often thanks to being on the road with his stepdad.

“They would be gone three days, home four days and that was pretty much seven months out of the year,” says Braun-Dennis. “We would beg the school system to have the extra time to travel for races.

After about 18 months of that, Dennis and Haley decided to move to Mooresville, North Carolina, as he was set to begin his K&N career.

“About six months later, I decided being separated in Indiana and them  being down here it wasn’t a lot of fun,” Braun-Dennis said. “We decided to move down here so we could have more family unit.”

FEELS LIKE THE FIRST TIME

In 2015, his first K&N season at HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks, Haley competed in a full season in one series for the first time. He would win his first race on March 26, 2016, at Greenville-Pickens Speedway.

At Dover, Haley had a chance to bring HScott its fourth K&N East title in as many years.

“Having that pressure on me, it wasn’t the biggest concern,” Haley says. “But it was definitely there to get four consecutive. It’s just a super cool feeling to know that a start-up team four years ago could end up with four consecutive titles.”

Haley clinched the championship with his fourth-place result, ending a season that included 13 top-five finishes in 14 races.

Dennis finally got to send his wife the message she was waiting for.

“The excitement in the room and the moment when Nate said ‘I think we got it,’ it was such a huge relief,” says Braun-Dennis.

Even though Haley had won races in the last eight years, including twice in 2016, he’s never gotten to properly celebrate.

“They wouldn’t let me do a burnout after my wins this year because it’s so hard on the drivetrain and the motor and stuff like that,” Haley says. “They were like, ‘You win the championship, you get to do a burnout.’ They just kept telling me that and telling me that. I guess they were trying to motivate me.

“Once I won the championship it was, ‘Yeah, I can finally burn them down here.’ ”

As Kyle Benjamin went to victory lane for the victory, Haley took his No. 5 Chevrolet to the frontstretch. Giving him instructions over the radio was his spotter, driver coach and life coach, Michael Self.

“He was on the radio pretty in-depth, telling what to do, when to use the front brake, what gear to be in and stuff like that,” Haley says.

A month after Kyle Larson first did it in a Sprint Cup race at Michigan, Haley burned his tires down while holding his steering wheel outside his window in “probably the highlight of my career.”

“I think he’s shown me his burnout about a dozen times today,” Braun-Dennis says a few days after the race. “He always makes sure to point out the steering wheel is out the window.”

DESTINATION UNKNOWN

Before his first burnout, Braun-Dennis’ proudest moment from her son’s career came in August 2015.

On Aug. 19, Haley, at 16, made his first start in the Camping World Truck Series. It came at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Haley drove a truck owned by his uncle Todd Braun, who once owned Braun Racing, a small Xfinity Series team that eventually became part of the DNA of HScott Motorsports. Haley started 21st and finished 14th.

“I raced Kyle Busch for about half a lap,” Haley says. “I thought that was the coolest thing ever.”

But his first start in the lowest of NASCAR’s three national series meant even more to Braun-Dennis.

“When he was, gosh, 14 years old, we were kind of putting all of our heart and our time and our soul into everything, he looked at me one day and said ‘All I want to do is start a Truck race.'”

He did it on her 40th birthday.

“I remember that the most,” she says. “Bristol is an amazing track. It was my mother’s favorite track. His grandmother who has since passed away. They both loved racing and actually both my parents owned race teams in their careers and so for him to be there at that track on my 40th birthday was probably the biggest accomplishment.”

With his K&N title, a ride in the Truck series would be the next logical step for the teenager’s career. But there’s the awkward issue of him not turning 18 until April 28, 2017, which keeps him from competing in the series’ full schedule.

“I’m not sure about my plans for next year,” says Haley. “My birthday is kind of in the worst spot possible. I don’t turn 18 until about a quarter of the way through the season. It kind of chops out my chance of racing for the championship in a national series. With that being said, we’re trying to do something that’s going to be effective in my career.”

Wherever he winds up, he’ll have his family behind him.

NASCAR’s Next Generation: Q&A with Harrison Burton

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If your name is Harrison Burton, your racing career can only start one way.

As the 15-year-old driver remembers it, the setting was the infield at one of the many tracks on the Sprint Cup circuit.

Burton was 2 at the time, his vehicle was a small, battery-powered car. His race course was a series of cones set up by his father, Sprint Cup driver Jeff Burton.

“Even at two years old, I wanted to race,” Harrison Burton told NBC Sports.

A 21-time winner on the Cup circuit and now an analyst for NBC Sports, Jeff Burton was already in teacher mode.

“I guess my dad actually started to take it a little bit more seriously,” Harrison Burton said. “He’d be like ‘You need to be doing this with your line, then doing this.'”

That scene led to one a few months ago with Harrison Burton in his yard playing catch with Pippen, one of his family’s three dogs, when his mother, Kim Burton, came outside to give him the phone. A NASCAR representative called to tell the K&N Pro Series East driver that he was going to be the youngest member of this year’s NASCAR Next class.

The following Q&A has been edited and condensed.

NBC Sports: What is it like being a 15-year-old driver getting this kind of recognition this early in your career?

Burton: It was awesome. I’m part of a class where I’m the youngest one, but where I feel right at home with all these guys and girls. It’s pretty cool. As for me, racing, my dad made this very evident when I started it, it’s an adult thing to do. As soon as you strap on that helmet, you’re a grownup like everyone else and they’ll treat them the same. For me, it didn’t mean a whole lot as to my age. I think that race car drivers, as soon as you strap that helmet on, you have an even playing field as far as age, sex, height, weight.

NBC Sports: Do you feel like an adult?

Burton: No. Only when I’m in a race car do I feel like an adult. I’m still fairly childish I’d say. My mon can attest to that, I’m sure. I don’t feel like an adult yet. Soon enough, I guess.

NBC Sports: You’ll get to race in the Camping World Truck Series later this year at Martinsville with Kyle Busch Motorsports. How did that deal come together and what are you expecting from that experience?

Burton: My dad is kind of my manager I guess you could say. He hasn’t really told me the full story on how that’s all coming together. I think that’s because I’m a blabber mouth and I might tell people. I do know I’m going to a great organization with guys like William Byron, Christopher Bell, Kyle Busch that have all shown success in these trucks. They’re proven to be fast. I think it’s a great environment to prove myself.

DOVER, DE - SEPTEMBER 24: Jeff Burton, driver of the #31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet, stands with the winners trophy and his wife Kim, daughter Paige, and son Harrison, following the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Dover 400 on September 24, 2006 at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jeff Burton poses with his wife Kim, daughter Paige, and son Harrison after winning the Sprint Cup Series Dover 400 on Sept. 24, 2006 at Dover International Speedway. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR)

NBC Sports:  In the K&N series you’ve raced at Bristol, Watkins Glen and Loudon. These are tracks you grew up going to with your dad’s racing career. What’s that been like for you getting to experience these tracks in their truest form after watching from the garage or the RV for so many years?

Burton: It’s different than I expected it to be. I think everyone looks at these faster tracks and gets a little bit nervous about them I guess. I was too, I was nervous about going to Bristol, I was nervous about going to Watkins Glen, especially. But what it comes down to is fundamentals of what you’re doing. If you can make a car go fast, you can make a car go faster. It’s a big challenge to learn the race track and you see how it goes.

NBC Sports: Of those three Cup track you’ve raced at, which one was the most surreal experience for you?

Burton: For me, Bristol. I got to go and see my dad win there (in 2008). My dad won at Loudon as well, but I wasn’t there, I was racing at that point. I was there when my dad won at Bristol.

NBC Sports: This early in your career, what is it that you look for in a race team that isn’t necessarily ‘they’re successful’?

Burton: First off, are you going to have fun? That’s what we’re doing it for. It’s a serious matter, obviously and we take it very seriously, but we’re having fun while doing it. I want to have guys where I can go to the shop and have fun with and be at the race track and have a good time with. Obviously, I want to have fun, but I also want to have intensity during practice and during the race.

NBC Sports: Do you remember the first time you told your parents you wanted to pursue a racing career?

Burton: The thing I do remember the most was … in quarter midgets, which was where I started, there is this national touring series that you can go run. We’re out of North Carolina, but the first race is in Phoenix and it’s (places like) San Antonio. It’s pretty crazy. We’ve got 11 year olds traveling to Phoenix to race. At that point, I was just running at a local race track as much as possible. I went and I asked my mom, I didn’t ask my dad because I felt he would have been harder to ask. It was really hard, because she had to give up so much. That was really the point where she sacrificed time for me so I could go and race and get better with all the best drivers that were in quarter midgets. I remember, I sat there and we all started crying, I don’t know why, it was really emotional. She ended up saying yes and we didn’t look back.

NBC Sports: What do you consider your theme song?

Burton: Me and my mom used to sing this song while going down the road, it’s “House of the Rising Sun.” That’s a good song. We used to sign that and still do whenever it comes on. Not for any particular reason for the meaning of the song, just because me and my mom listened to it.

NBC Sports: What’s the hardest you’ve ever laughed?

Burton: We were about to do the announcement for NASCAR Next, I’m kind of going to throw Todd Gilliland under the bus here, but Todd was absolutely shaking. He was so nervous to go onto Race Hub and everyone was making fun of him for it. That was probably one of the hardest times I’ve ever laughed, watching Todd sit there and shake getting ready to go on TV.

NBC Sports: What was your favorite paint scheme that your dad drove?

Burton: When I was a kid I really loved the purple Prilosec car that had lightning bolts all over it. Prilosec OTC, No. 31. That thing was definitely my favorite, I guess the lighting bolts did the trick for me as a kid.

HScott Motorsports announces K&N Pro Series driver lineup for 2016

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After claiming the 2015 K&N Pro Series East championship with William Byron, HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks has announced its driver lineup for the 2016 season.

After fielding the efforts of Byron, Rico Abreu, Dalton Sargeant, Scott Heckert and J.J. Haley, the K&N operation will have three new faces and a familiar one next year.

Haley will return to a team that will now include the names Harrison Burton, the son of former Sprint Cup driver and NASCAR on NBC analyst Jeff Burton, Hunter Baize and Tyler Dippel.

Haley, 16, earned six top-five and 10 top-10 finishes in 14 starts in 2015. HIs best finish was third at Bowman Gray Stadium and Watkins Glen International.

Burton, 15,  joins HSMJM after starting in two Pro Series West races in 2015. At 15 years, 8 days old, he was the youngest driver to make a start in the series. Burton comes to the K&N East Series after learning the ropes in Late Models. He earned his first pole position in the Limited Late Model Series at 11 and won his first Pro-Late Model race age 12 and first Super Late Model race at 14.

Baize, 18, finished third in the ARCA/CRA Super Series point standings last season and placed ninth in his ARCA Racing Series debut.

Dippel, 15, enters his rookie NKNPSE season after earning the Rookie of the Year award in the DIRTcar Northeast Series. The Wallkill, N.Y. native also started in three ARCA races, earning a fourth place finish at Salem Speedway.

“As we have seen over the past few seasons, this series breeds the future of our sport,” team co-owner Harry Scott Jr. said in a team release. “With the amount of success this organization achieved in 2015, I’m really looking forward to next season with J.J. returning and our three new drivers. It’s great to see these young guys develop as the season progresses, and I love watching them as they move forward into different divisions throughout their careers.”