Sam Ard

March 28 in NASCAR history: Texas Terry Labonte gets a home win

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Terry Labonte’s last two Cup Series wins were anything but forgettable.

The last one, in 2003, came in the Southern 500. That was the same race he earned his first Cup win in way back in 1980.

But four years earlier, the two-time champion got a home win.

A native of Corpus Christi, Texas, the driver nicknamed “Texas Terry” claimed a victory in the 1999 race at Texas Motor Speedway. It was just the third Cup race held at the facility after it opened in 1997.

Labonte started fourth and would lead 124 of 334 laps around the 1.5-mile track, including the final 12 after he passed Dale Jarrett on the outside going into Turn 1 for the lead.

Jarrett wouldn’t get a chance to fight for the lead again. With four laps to go, Jimmy Spencer crashed on the frontstretch to bring out the caution. Labonte took the checkered and yellow flags together for his 21st Cup win.

“We picked places to go test this year and I said ‘I want to go here cause this is a race I want to win,” Labonte told CBS. “Besides Daytona, coming here to Texas is awesome.”

Making the day even better for the Labonte family was Terry’s younger brother, Bobby, placing third.

Also on this day:

1954: The premier series held two races on different sides of the country. Dick Rathmann won a 125-mile race at Oakland Speedway in California after starting last. In Georgia, Al Keller won his first career race at Savannah’s Oglethorpe Speedway.

1982: Sam Ard claimed his first career Xfinity Series win in a race at Martinsville Speedway. Ard would go on to win 22 Xfinity races and the championships in 1983 and 1984.

1992: Robert Pressley passed Harry Gant on the last lap to win the Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway.

1993: Dale Earnhardt came back from a lap down to win at Darlington Raceway. It was his first win since the Coca-Cola 600 10 months earlier. Alan Kulwicki finished sixth in what would be his last race before his death in a plane crash on April 1.

2004: Kurt Busch won at Bristol for his third consecutive victory on the half-mile track.

NASCAR Hall of Fame fan vote underway

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Fan voting for the 2020 NASCAR Hall of Fame class has begun.

Fans can vote online and the five nominees receiving the highest percentage of votes will comprise the Fan Vote ballot.

The fan vote ends on May 20 at 11:59 a.m. ET. The class will be formally voted on and announced at the Hall of Fame on May 22.

Here are the 20 nominees for the 2020 class:

Sam Ard, NASCAR Xfinity Series pioneer and two-time champion

Buddy Baker, won 19 times in the NASCAR Cup Series, including the Daytona 500 and Southern 500

Neil Bonnett, won 18 times in the NASCAR Cup Series, including consecutive Coca-Cola 600 victories

Red Farmer, three-time Late Model Sportsman champion; 1956 Modified champion

Ray Fox, legendary engine builder, crew chief and car owner

Harry Gant, winner of 18 NASCAR Cup Series races, including two Southern 500 victories

Joe Gibbs, combined for nine car owner championships in Cup and XFINITY series

John Holman, won two NASCAR Cup Series championships as co-owner of Holman-Moody Racing

Harry Hyde, 1970 NASCAR Cup Series championship crew chief

Bobby Labonte, won a championship in both the Cup Series and XFINITY Series

Hershel McGriff, 1986 NASCAR west series champion

Ralph Moody, won two NASCAR Cup Series championships as co-owner of Holman-Moody Racing

Marvin Panch, won 17 times in the NASCAR Cup Series, including the 1961 Daytona 500

Jim Paschal, 23 of his 25 NASCAR Cup Series wins came on short tracks

Larry Phillips, first five-time NASCAR weekly series national champion

Ricky Rudd, won 23 times in NASCAR Cup Series, including the 1997 Brickyard 400

Mike Stefanik, winner of record-tying nine NASCAR championships

Tony Stewart, three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, two-time Brickyard 400 winner

Red Vogt, the first master mechanic of NASCAR, and a founding member

Waddell Wilson, won three NASCAR Cup Series championships as an engine builder

Click here to vote on the Hall of Fame class.

Joe Gibbs on Christopher Bell: ‘We have to keep him’

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Christopher Bell’s three consecutive Xfinity wins have raised questions of if he’ll move to Cup next year, but car owner Joe Gibbs said Wednesday on “The Morning Drive” that the youngster is “scheduled” to be in Xfinity next year.

Bell’s status has gained attention because there’s seemingly no place for him in a Toyota Cup ride next year.

Joe Gibbs Racing already has Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones in its four-car lineup. The only other high-profile Toyota team, Furniture Row Racing, has reigning series champion Martin Truex Jr., and seeks sponsorship for that team. That leaves the possibility of a second ride there less likely. Truex is a free agent after this season but indicated last month at Kentucky that “I don’t plan on doing anything different” for next season.

If Toyota added another organization, it could provide Bell with a path to Cup as early as next year.

“We have to keep him,” Gibbs said to SiriusXM NASCAR Radio of ensuring Bell remains in the Toyota and JGR fold. “Just put it that way. We have to. I think Toyota has a lot invested. We do. I really think he’s a future star. You never know when you step up to the next level, that’s a huge step. We think he’s well on his way. I think he’s showing everyone what his abilities are and his talents.”

Bell won the Camping World Truck Series title last year for Toyota-backed Kyle Busch Motorsports. He ran eight Xfinity races last year for Joe Gibbs Racing, winning in his fifth series start, before moving to that series full-time with JGR this year. Bell has four victories and 12 top-five finishes in 19 Xfinity races this season. He goes for his fourth consecutive Xfinity win — an accomplishment achieved only by Sam Ard in 1983 — Saturday at Watkins Glen (3:30 p.m. ET on NBC).

Bell’s rise and the limited number of Toyota seats in Cup create a conundrum the manufacturer has faced before. Toyota’s driver development program goes from midget racing all the way to Cup, providing a ladder system for drivers to climb as they progress. But with limited seats in Xfinity and Cup, Toyota has lost some young drivers to other manufacturers and organizations.

Kyle Larson, who had been racing on dirt for a Toyota-backed team, signed with Turner Motorsports, a Chevrolet team, to drive in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2013. He later moved to Chevrolet’s Chip Ganassi Racing in Cup. After that, Toyota began to examine its development program to find more avenues for its young drivers.

Even with that in place, the manufacturer lost William Byron, who won a series-high seven Camping World Truck races in 2016 for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Byron moved to JR Motorsports, a Chevrolet team in the Xfinity Series, in 2017. He won the title before moving up to Cup with Hendrick Motorsports this season.

If there’s no room immediately at Joe Gibbs Racing in Cup for Bell, could the organization move him elsewhere as it did when Jones ran as a rookie last year at Furniture Row Racing before returning to JGR?

“Well, it’s so far in the future,” Gibbs said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “I think that’s what we’re all right now planning and looking at. I think it’s kind of up in the air right now. We’re kind of set next year. We want to keep him in Xfinity next year.

“I think he may have a chance to race a few other things. I think that’s kind of our plan. A year away, a lot can happen in a year. We’re just glad that we’ve got him under our banner.”

NASCAR America: Christopher Bell’s three-peat quite a feat

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Christopher Bell overcame contact with another car in the closing laps at Iowa Speedway and two late-race restarts to win his third consecutive Xfinity race. In doing so, he became the first Xfinity regular to perform the feat since Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 1999.

The three-peat put Bell in rarified air along with Earnhardt, Larry Pearson and Sam Ard as the only regulars in the series who have won three consecutive races.

It has the question being asked once again about Bell’s future in the Cup series.

“I see no reason in holding this young man back,” Dale Jarrett said on Monday’s edition of NASCAR America. “And that has not been Toyota’s forte that they say, ‘Ok, we’ll let these guys hang around a couple of years.’ They want to move them on to the Cup series. They know that’s what they have in mind for Christopher Bell.”

MORE: Christopher Bell taking a step in goal to ‘conquer’ Xfinity Series
MORE: Third consecutive victory in Xfinity for Christopher Bell
MORE: Can Toyota make room for Christopher Bell in Cup?

The decision comes down to sponsorship, but there is already a path that has been blazed by Joe Gibbs Racing to develop drivers when its Cup organization is full.

“If there’s money available, I don’t know why they wouldn’t go back to Furniture Row where Joe Gibbs Racing took Erik Jones last year and have him perform there,” Jarrett continued. “Supposedly, all of the employees were kept.”

Putting Bell in the Cup series might solve two problems.

Furniture Row continues to look for full-time sponsorship of Martin Truex Jr.’s No. 78, but instead of that uncertainty lessening the appeal of running a second car, Jarrett believes it could improve the financial considerations.

“I think the money would also help that Furniture Row organization in that they are looking for a major sponsor right now for the 78 car,” Jarrett said. “If you know you have these dollars it would help in that situation – maybe you could take a little bit less than what you were thinking about for the 78.”

For more, watch the video above.

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Cole Custer honors two-time Xfinity champion Sam Ard with Darlington paint scheme

Stewart-Haas Racing
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Rookie Cole Custer will honor the memory and career of Sam Ard with a special paint scheme in the Sept. 2 Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway.

Custer and Stewart-Haas Racing revealed the paint scheme Wednesday at Darlington.

Sam Ard with the No. 00 car he drove in the early 1980s. (Photo by ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images)

A two-time Xfinity Series champion in 1983 and 1984, Ard passed away on April 2 at the age of 84. Custer, 19, drives the No. 00 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing. Ard drove the No. 00 in all 92 of his Xfinity Series starts.

In those 92 starts in what was then the NASCAR Budweiser Late Model Sportsman Series, Ard won 22 races and earned 67 top-fives, 79 top 10s and 24 poles.

Custer’s car will have the colors and lettering of Ard’s No. 00 Oldsmobile Omega that now sits on “Glory Road” in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Ard’s name will also be on the roof of the car.

“The 00 number has been a part of my entire NASCAR career, and over the years I’ve gotten to know its history and met some of the people who worked with Sam and saw him race,” Custer said in a press release. “The more I learn about Sam and all that he accomplished, the more impressive it becomes. I feel like I’m driving his car, and I want to make him and his family proud. Guys like Sam Ard helped shape the sport into what it is today. Without him, I don’t know if the opportunity to drive racecars for a living would exist. I’m grateful for it and I’d like him and his family to know it.”

A veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Ard was was born in Pamplico, South Carolina, roughly 45 minutes southeast of Darlington. Ard worked on aircraft at Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, South Carolina, during the Vietnam War.

Ard made four starts at Darlington and never finished worse than sixth.

MORE: Brad Keselowski driving Rusty Wallace paint scheme in Southern 500

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