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Harrison Burton set for limited ARCA schedule

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Harrison Burton‘s 2019 racing schedule got a bit more crowded with Venturini Motorsports’ announcing Thursday he will compete for the team part-time in ARCA this season.

Burton, who will race full-time in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports, will compete in five events for Venturini driving the No. 20 Camry.

The two-time ARCA winner will make his first start at Daytona on Feb. 9.

Burton will then make starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway (May 23), Pocono Raceway (May 31), Chicagoland Speedway (June 27) and the season finale at Kansas Speedway (Oct. 18).

“I’m super excited to join Venturini Motorsports and continue running in the series,” Burton said in a press release. “I love ARCA Racing and the community around it. The series is a great option in the grand scheme of things when it comes to my career development. It’s a great stepping stone as I continue to the next level.”

Burton has 11 ARCA starts since 2016. His wins came at Pocono Raceway and Toledo Speedway.

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Harrison Burton to compete for Kyle Busch Motorsports full-time in 2019

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Harrison Burton, the son of former Cup driver and current NBC Sports analyst Jeff Burton, will drive full-time for Kyle Busch Motorsports next season in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series, the team announced Wednesday.

Burton, 18, has competed part-time for KBM in the Truck Series since 2016 with 14 starts. He has four top fives, seven top 10s and one pole in that time.

He tied his career-best result last weekend at ISM Raceway, placing third.

Burton won 2017 K&N Pro Series East championship off five wins.

He also has two ARCA Racing Series wins since 2017.

Burton will be sponsored by Safelite AutoGlass in 19 races.

“I’ve worked really hard the last few seasons driving a limited schedule for KBM to prove that I’m capable of running full-time in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series in 2019 and I’m excited for the opportunity to do so with Safelite AutoGlass as my primary sponsor,” Burton said in a press release. “By using all of the resources that I have available at KBM, with the support of Toyota and Toyota Racing Development, I know that I’ll continue to improve as a driver and I’m confident that I’m capable of competing for wins and being a legitimate contender for the Truck Series championship next year. Obviously, to get to this point in my career it has taken a lot of support from a lot of different people, so I can’t thank my parents enough as well as companies like DEX Imaging, Hunt Brothers Pizza, Morton Buildings, RUUD and FIELDS for being great partners.”

Burton’s crew chief and further sponsors will be announced at a later date.

“Harrison has done a great job of balancing being a high school student, as well as a student of racing since making his first Truck Series start for KBM shortly after turning 16 a few years ago,” Kyle Busch said in the press release. “The results of his hard work are starting to pay dividends and we’re confident that his first Truck Series win will be coming shortly and he’ll be able to be in the mix for the championship next year.”

Noah Gragson addresses where he stands with Todd Gilliland, 2019 plans

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Noah Gragson said he doesn’t know where he’ll race next year but stated Wednesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio where things stood with Todd Gilliland after their last-lap incident Sunday at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.

Gragson attempted to pass Gilliland for the lead on the last corner but made contact. Both trucks spun, allowing Justin Haley to win the playoff-opening race in the Camping World Truck Series and secure a spot to the next round. Gragson finished ninth. Gilliland placed 11th.

Gragson addressed the incident with Gilliland, his Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate, on “SiriusXM Speedway.”

“I’ve talked to Todd a little bit,” Gragson told host Dave Moody. “We’re back on good terms. I wanted to get his opinion on that last lap. He wanted to get my opinion. At the end of the day, we were racing for a win. I hate the result for everybody at Kyle Busch Motorsports. Not my intention. We’re both going to move on from it and keep racing each other hard and going out there and trying to beat the rest of the competition.”

As for what car owner Kyle Busch said to him, Gragson said: “I don’t think he’s too happy. He’s been on vacation this week. I’m sure we’ll hear about it later on.”

Another question for Gragson is about his future.

Sports Business Journal’s Adam Stern reported Wednesday that JR Motorsports is expected to sign Gragson for next season in the Xfinity Series. Gragson would replace Elliott Sadler, who announced earlier this month that this would be his final full-time season in NASCAR.

“I think the key word to that whole phrase,” Gragson told Moody when asked about being a part of the rumor mill, “is rumor. Right now it’s not really my focus. I know my guys at Clutch Management have been working really hard on finding me an opportunity next year. My main focus is to win a championship at Kyle Busch Motorsports and compete for wins on a weekly basis.”

Asked about how quickly he’d like to advance to the Xfinity Series, the 20-year-old Gragson said: “I’m not really sure what I’m going to do next year. I think it would be a great opportunity if I was in position to race in the Xfinity Series.”

Gragson finished second in his Xfinity debut at Richmond in April and followed it with a fourth at Talladega and a seventh at Dover for Joe Gibbs Racing. Those were all Dash 4 Cash races and Cup drivers were not allowed to compete in those events.

Gragson is in the Truck playoffs and is third in the points after one race. He has one win this season.

Friday 5: Christopher Bell taking a step in goal to ‘conquer’ Xfinity Series

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Three weeks ago, Christopher Bell said that he wanted to “conquer” the Xfinity Series and “be the guy that everyone says that (they) have got to beat.”

The 23-year-old series rookie is quickly becoming that driver.

In the past two weeks, Bell beat former Cup champion Kyle Busch at Kentucky and Brad Keselowski at New Hampshire for victories.

At Kentucky, Bell started in the rear after spinning in qualifying. Busch led 111 laps but finished third to Bell.

At New Hampshire, Bell held off a charging Keselowski late to earn his third series victory of the season. Bell won’t take full credit for the win, noting he took four tires on his last stop and Keselowski took two. Still, Bell won.

What has it meant to beat Busch and Keselowski in consecutive races?

It makes me happy,” Bell said after the New Hampshire win. “You see all this crap going around the Internet where Cup guys shouldn’t be allowed in Xfinity. Well, why? Why shouldn’t they be allowed in Xfinity?

“Ever since I was a kid growing up sprint car racing, I strived to go race with the World of Outlaws because they were the best. I strive to race with Kyle Busch and Keselowski and all those guys. I love racing with the best. I want to be the best.”

Bell, who won the Truck Series title last year, has shown he has the talent to go with the strong rides with Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Truck Series and now Joe Gibbs Racing in the Xfinity Series.

Even with those benefits, he’s winning races and that’s what one has to do in such equipment if they hope to land a premier ride in NASCAR’s top series someday.

“I think if you look at Christopher’s background, he’s excelled in every series he’s ever been in, won races, so I wouldn’t say he’s outperformed (expectations), he’s doing exactly what we thought he would do,” said Steve de Souza, executive vice president at Joe Gibbs Racing, whose primary duty is overseeing the organization’s Xfinity program.

Heading into Saturday’s race at Iowa Speedway (5:20 p.m. ET on NBCSN), Bell is six points behind series leader Daniel Hemric. Bell’s three wins and three stage victories give him a series-high 18 playoff points with eight races left in the regular season.

Earlier this month at Daytona, Bell said how he needed to be better.

“I want to conquer the Xfinity Series and win more races and finish my job here,” he said. “I want to be the guy. I want to be the guy that everyone says that I’ve got to beat the 20 car. That’s what I want, and I pride myself on every step along the way I’ve become the guy to beat. I just don’t feel like I’m there yet in these Xfinity cars.”

He admits his season had not gone quite how he hoped up to that point.

“I’ve got a lot of great runs going, but it’s kind of similar to my first year in Trucks,” Bell said at Daytona. “I’ve crashed some. Got taken out some. The finishes are either really good or DNF’s. I’ve just got to put the races together and hopefully it comes together pretty quick.”

Crew chief Jason Ratcliff sees Bell developing the habits that will carry him to more success.

“I think that we started the season capable of winning races and Christopher is – he’s doing a good job of communicating what he needs with the race car each and every week,” Ratcliff said at New Hampshire. “The guys are building better race cars at the shop, so I think it’s everything all around – his ability, the race cars, the pit crews are just coming together when it counts.”

2. Team of the Decade Race

With Hendrick Motorsports in the midst of a 36-race winless streak (the second-longest winless drought in its history), Joe Gibbs Racing is pulling away in the duel to win the most Cup races this decade.

Since 2010, Joe Gibbs Racing has won 77 races. Hendrick Motorsports is next with 61 wins. Team Penske is third with 44 victories and is followed by Stewart-Haas Racing, which has 43 victories, and Roush Fenway Racing at 21 wins.

Here’s the full list:

WINS BY ORGANIZATION SINCE 2010

(308 races)

77 – Joe Gibbs Racing

61 – Hendrick Motorsports

44 – Team Penske

43 – Stewart-Haas Racing

21 – Roush Fenway Racing

19 – Richard Childress Racing

18 – Furniture Row Racing

10 – Chip Ganassi Racing

6 – Michael Waltrip Racing

3 – Richard Petty Motorsports

2 – Front Row Motorsports

2 – Wood Brothers Racing

1 – JTG Daugherty Racing

1 – Red Bull Racing

3. Pocono: The start of something good for Kyle Busch

Last July, Kyle Busch scored his first career Cup win at Pocono. Since that win, Busch has run 36 races (a full season) and his stats over that time are staggering.

In the last 36 races, Busch has a series-high 10 wins, a series-high seven poles, a series-high six runner-up finishes, a series-high 28 top-10 finishes and a series-high 1,967 laps led.

He’ll go for a sweep at Pocono this weekend. He’s entered in both the Cup and Truck race. This will be his fifth and final Truck race of the year. Cup drivers with more than five years experience are limited to seven Xfinity and five Truck races a season.

4. Looking to win again

Past the halfway mark in the Cup season, here are the drivers who scored at least one win last season who are still looking for a victory this year: Kyle Larson, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman and Ryan Blaney.

5. $658 million in renovations

With the announcement Thursday that International Speedway Corporation will renovate the infield at Talladega Superspeedway at a cost of about $50 million, it marked the fourth major project ISC has done on one of its tracks since 2013.

Daytona International Speedway’s upgrades were estimated at $400 million for redoing the frontstretch grandstands, suites, concourses and such.

Upgrades at ISM Raceway (Phoenix) are expected to cost $178 million. That will include additional stands, a new infield fan area, a pedestrian tunnel to the infield and more. The project will be completed before this fall’s races.

Talladega Superspeedway announced upgrades that will cost about $50 million that will include new garages for Cup teams, a new fan area between the garages that allows easy access for fans to that area and a new victory lane, among other upgrades

Richmond Raceway will spend an estimated $30 million that features new Cup garages that will have a fan viewing walkway, a fan area, a new media center and a new pedestrian tunnel. That project is set to be completed in September.

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Christian Eckes lands four-race deal with Kyle Busch Motorsports in Truck Series

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Christian Eckes, the most recent winner in the ARCA Racing Series, has landed a four-race deal with Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Camping World Truck Series.

Eckes, 17, won Sunday’s race at Salem Speedway while driving for Bill Venturini. The win came in his 16th start in the series.

The native of Middletown, New York, will make his Truck Series debut June 16 at Iowa Speedway in KBM’s No. 46 Toyota. He will drive it again on June 23 at Gateway Motorsports Park, Oct. 27 at Martinsville and Nov. 9 at ISM Raceway.

“The opportunity to compete for Kyle Busch Motorsports in my NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut is a dream come true — my first chance to get behind the wheel of the No. 46 Tundra can’t get here soon enough,” Eckes said in a press release. “I can’t thank everybody at Toyota Racing, Mobil 1 and all of my supporters enough for making this possible.”

In 2017, Eckes collected four top five and nine top-10 finishes in 10 ARCA events and four top five and five top-10 finishes in six CARS Super Late Model Tour starts.

In December 2016, Eckes won the Snowball Derby Super Late Model race at Five Flags Speedway in a narrow finish over John Hunter Nemechek.

Cody Glick, who oversees KBM’s Super Late Model program, will serve as Eckes’ crew chief in his four starts. Glick earned his first career Truck Series victory in Kyle Busch’s win from the pole at Bristol Motor Speedway last year.

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