Longtime crew chief Nick Harrison dies at 37, team announces

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LOUDON, N.H. — Kaulig Racing announced Sunday morning that veteran crew chief Nick Harrison died. He was 37.

Harrison was the crew chief for Justin Haley‘s No. 11 Chevrolet in the Xfinity Series and had called the car’s 13th-place finish Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

In a statement attributed to team owner Matt Kaulig and president Chris Rice, the team said in a tweet that “It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of Nick Harrison, our beloved crew chief of the No. 11 car at Kaulig Racing. Please keep Nick’s family in your thoughts and prayers at this time.”

No cause of death or information on services was immediately available. A Kaulig Racing spokesperson said “further details would be provided as they come.”

NASCAR released a statement on Harrison’s death: “We are deeply saddened by the loss of longtime crew chief Nick Harrison, and offer our thoughts, prayers and support to his family, friends and Kaulig Racing colleagues.”

According to Racing-Reference.info, Harrison made his debut as an Xfinity crew chief in 2006. He was a crew chief for 184 Xfinity races (including 17 with Haley this year) and had five victories, his first with Kurt Busch in 2012 at Daytona International Speedway with James Finch’s Phoenix Racing.

He also worked 120 races as a crew chief in the Cup Series, including full seasons in 2011-12 with Phoenix Racing’s No. 51 Chevrolet. He guided Busch to a third place June 24, 2012 at Sonoma Raceway, marking Harrison’s best finish as a Cup crew chief.

Harrison also won three times in the Xfinity Series with Austin Dillon and once with Paul Menard. He also won with Dillon in the Aug. 2, 2014 truck race at Pocono Raceway, one of three truck races for Harrison as a crew chief.

During a career with several teams including Phoenix, Richard Childress Racing and Kaulig, Harrison worked with more than a dozen Cup and Xfinity drivers. The roster included Bobby Labonte, Bill Elliott, Boris Said, A.J. Allmendinger, Micahel McDowell, Regan Smith, Ryan Truex, Landon Cassill, Jamie McMurray, Ty Dillon, Jeremy Clements, Brandon Jones, Ben Kennedy and Brendan Gaughan.

NASCAR’s updated entry lists for Dover

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All three of NASCAR’s national series will compete this weekend at Dover International Speedway. It’s the first time all three series have been in action since Texas Motor Speedway at the end of March.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for each race at the “Monster Mile.”

Cup – Gander RV 400 (2 p.m. ET Sunday on Fox Sports 1)

There are 37 cars entered for the race.

Quin Houff is entered in Spire Motorsports’ No. 77 Chevrolet for the fourth time.

Last year, Kevin Harvick won this race over Clint Bowyer and Daniel Suarez. Chase Elliott won the playoff race over Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano.

Click here for entry list

Xfinity – Allied Steel Buildings 200 (1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday on FS1)

There are 38 entries for the race, which is also the final Dash 4 Cash event of the year.

Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell, Chase Briscoe and Gray Gaulding will compete for the $100,000 bonus.

Kaz Grala is entered in his third race driving Richard Childress Racing’s No. 21 Chevrolet.

Riley Herbst is entered in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota.

Bayley Currey will drive Rick Ware Racing’s No. 17 Chevrolet.

Justin Allgaier won this race last year over Elliott Sadler and Daniel Hemric. Bell won the playoff race over Cole Custer and Allgaier.

Click here for the updated entry list.

Trucks – JEGS 200 (5 p.m. ET on Friday on FS1)

There are 32 trucks entered. Three entries have been withdrawn.

AM Racing’s No. 22 Chevrolet will be driven by Austin Wayne Self who will return to the truck after his suspension was lifted.

Ryan Sieg is entered in Reaume Brothers Racing’s No. 33 Chevrolet for his first Truck Series start since 2015.

Raphael Lessard is entered in Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 46 Toyota.

Brandon Jones is entered in KBM’s No. 51 Toyota.

Johnny Sauter has won the last two Truck Series races at Dover.

Click here for the updated entry list.

Speed Tweets: What you may have missed on Twitter from Las Vegas

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With the start of the West Coast Swing, the NASCAR community and its social media got in the Las Vegas spirit during its trip to Sin City.

Denny Hamlin did his part by paying homage to the movie The Hangover with a shirt inspired by Zach Galifianakis’ character.

This is not the first time a Cup driver got their Hangover on. In 2013, Jimmie Johnson recreated multiple scenes from the film on his Instagram account.

The final laps of Saturday’s Xfinity Series race were marred by multiple wrecks in Turn 3 and 4.

But one fan standing on a RV in the vicinity completely missed Brandon Jones‘ demolished No. 19 car coming to a rest right next to him.

Maybe Menards should consider making its traditional yellow even brighter.

The split of Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus has its bright spots.

One fan decided to take his loyalty to the No. 24 team with Knaus and showed up in the Las Vegas garage bearing a message. Johnson posted pictures of the fan and his makeshift signs over the weekend and may have won him back.

The hottest club in Las Vegas is called the OSS.

It has everything: a Cup car, psychedelic flashing lights and Pitbull music plays at obscene levels when you make it through in one try.

The pre-race ceremonies for Xfinity race had an “only in Vegas” moment when the National Anthem was sung by impersonators of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings.

Erik Jones was inspired.

The West Coast Swing has its downsides when it comes to travel time, but Aric Almirola is getting through it thanks to power of caffeine and Dr. Seuss.

Friday 5: David Ragan says gap between ‘haves and have-nots’ has grown

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It started with a tweet.

Isn’t that often the case?

It was a few days after Travis Pastrana successfully recreated three of Evel Knievel’s iconic Las Vegas jumps earlier this month. Pastrana, who ran full-time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2013, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he enjoyed his racing experience except for losing his own money.

“The best way to end up a millionaire,” Pastrana told the newspaper “is to start with two and go racing.”

David Ragan, who has made 417 career Cup starts, responded to the comment with a tweet:

In a conversation with NBC Sports a few hours before last weekend’s race at Kentucky Speedway, Ragan praised the racing, the safety of the cars and NASCAR’s marketing of drivers, but reiterated his concerns about the financial gap between Cup teams.

“The gap has gotten larger from the haves and have-nots,” Ragan said. “A team like Jasper Motorsports in the early 2000s, they could have a good weekend and a good setup and a good pit crew and they could go and run in the top five. Can Front Row Motorsports run in the top five at Kentucky on a normal weekend? No. There’s no way.

“A team like Roush Racing, they’re off right now, they can’t do it. So the distance between the haves and the have-nots are as great as they’ve ever been.”

How to solve the problem, Ragan admits he isn’t sure. He says the sport needs to be cheaper so teams don’t require as much sponsorship money to be competitive.

Richard Petty Motorsports stated before last weekend’s race at Kentucky that it continues to look for sponsorship this season for rookie Bubba Wallace. The businesses of car owners Richard Petty (Petty’s Garage) and Andrew Murstein (Medallion Bank) were the sponsors on Wallace’s car last week and will be on his car this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

“Now a team owner, when they hire a driver, the first question is ‘How much money do you have?’ or ‘Can you sell a sponsor for me?’ ” Ragan said.

Ragan admits that there are some such cases that have worked out well for team and driver.

“You look at Matt Tifft and … Brandon Jones, they bring money to the team and it’s a rent-a-ride and those kids are deserving of a ride,” Ragan said. “They do a good job, but it’s not always like that because you do have some kids – and I don’t need to name names – but there are some kids just having a good time spending their daddy’s money and that doesn’t help our sport.

“They don’t have the passion. There’s probably late model drivers, (Camping World Truck Series driver) Jordan Anderson who is passionate about our sport, who drives his truck and trailer all around the country. He deserves a top-tier ride. It all boils down to expense.”

Ragan says it is important for new people to enter the sport and the Cup level.

“What creates interest in our sport, someone from an owner or a driver that says, ‘Hey I can come in and pay my dues and be successful in a reasonable amount of time,’ ” Ragan said. “(I) think that was possible 25 years ago. I think that Bill Davis or the owner of Jasper Motorsports … someone like a Robert Yates, who is not a billionaire but who is hard worker, who is a good team leader and who has good people surrounding them, they could come and be successful. I think like Morgan-McClure, but we’ve run those teams out because this is a rich man’s hobby. If you don’t have a half a billion net worth or more, you don’t have a chance of making it in NASCAR.”

The Race Team Alliance, which Ragan’s Front Row Motorsports team is not part of by choice, has sought to help teams reduce costs through shared expenses. NASCAR repeatedly has stated that one of its prime objectives is costs and that it works with teams on cutting expenses.

One recent example is NASCAR deciding not to run the All-Star package at any other track this season after concerns from teams about the expense of a mid-season change.

Rob Kauffman, chairman of the Race Team Alliance, said on the NASCAR on NBC podcast earlier this month that the purpose of the RTA “is to promote and grow the sport of stock-car racing and pursue the long-term (common) interests of the teams.”

Kauffman said the RTA worked on cutting costs for teams. That included travel costs, working with carriers to ferry teams to tracks instead of teams needing to have their own jets (although some still do).

Still, the sport faces challenges. That’s among the reasons the charter system was created. Kauffman said on the NASCAR on NBC podcast that the RTA was involved in the negotiations on the charter system and “how the rule process works: When, how, when do changes get implemented. The teams are not against changes. I think in general they’re in favor of evolution and trying to promote and grow the sport, just change needs to be done in a reasonable and planned out and sensible fashion.”

The charter system helps Cup teams budget for a season based on an estimated earning per race. Teams still need to secure sponsorship to fund all that they want or need. A hope among owners is that as the charters mature, they will grow in value so if an owner ever decides to sell, they won’t be losing money just like Pastrana said he did.

2. Playoff battle among teammates

Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman hold the final three playoff spots heading into Sunday’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Johnson leads Elliott by 15 points and Elliott has a 42-point point advantage on Bowman, who is coming off a last-place finish at Kentucky after a brake rotor failed that caused his crash last weekend.

Bowman admits “it’s definitely crossed my mind” on how to race his teammates if they’re also battling for the final playoff spots.

“I would imagine at that point you just become competitors,” he told NBC Sports. “You’re still going to help each other. The teams are going to share information, but when it comes down to Sunday afternoon, you’re just going to become competitors and can’t race each other easy like teammates at that point.

“Hopefully it doesn’t come down to that and all three of us get in, but it will be an interesting experience and a learning process for me because, you’re right, I haven’t had an experience like that, I don’t know what to expect with that.”

3. Roval concerns

After Cup drivers tested the road course at Charlotte Motor Speedway over the past two weeks, the consensus is that playoff race there Sept. 30 should feature a lot of bumping and banging — crashing.

Over the past couple of weeks, minor adjustments were made to the track. The first test day, additional curbing  and a tire barrier were put near the backstretch chicane to keep drivers from cutting through the exit and shortening the distance to Turn 3 on the oval.

During the test this past week, rumble strips were removed from Turn 8, a left-hand turn that leads cars from the infield portion back on to the oval.

Joey Logano has another change he’d like to see but knows he likely won’t.

“I think the goal should be to try to get rid of the bus stop on the back,” Logano told NBC Sports. “Just get rid of it. Just go. Hell with it. We don’t need it any other time we’re here. There’s no passing zone there. It’s kind of hodge-podge in a way.

“It’s going to cause accidents, and there’s no room for error. Someone is going to hit the tire pylon on exit and knock the radiators out of the car. We’re going to have a big caution and a  big cleanup. It would just be better if we didn’t have it.”

That chicane is intended to prevent cars from carrying too much speed into Turns 3 and 4 on the oval. The challenge with a road course that also has high-speed banked turns is for teams to have the proper setup and Goodyear to provide the proper tire that can handle those speeds and the demands of a road course.

That’s not the only concern.

Aric Almirola noted that for the start and restarts, drivers will come down the frontstretch instead of going through the chicane. He worries about the speed drivers will carry into Turn 1, a sharp left-hand turn into the infield road course.

“Turn 1 is very sketchy, and on the restarts I think that’s going to be a really, really sketchy spot,” Almirola told NBC Sports. “We’re going to be going faster because we’re going to be restarting from the oval instead of from the chicane. That’s going to be an interesting thing to watch and see how it develops throughout the weekend. I just don’t know.

“It’s fun to do something different. I enjoy that. I wish it wasn’t a playoff race. I would love for this to be an exhibition race or to run here in May when it means a little less, but to come here for a playoff race to do something this extreme, I’m not totally in favor of it.”

Alex Bowman said that his team considered simulating a restart during their test last week but ran out of time after having parts failures that limited their track time.

4. Something new?

Martin Truex Jr. has 16 wins since the beginning of the 2016 season but he’s not won back-to-back races. Will that change this weekend?

5. Will the domination continue?

Toyota drivers have led 97.2 percent of the laps run in the last four Cup races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Toyota drivers won three of those four races. Will anyone else challenge those cars this weekend?

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Ryan Blaney scores first Xfinity win of year at Texas Motor Speedway

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Ryan Blaney dominated to win the Xfinity Series race Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway, leading 132 of 200 laps to earn his first victory of the year.

Blaney led the final 46 laps to give Team Penske’s No. 22 Ford its third consecutive win, following victories by Brad Keselowski (ISM Raceway) and Joey Logano (Auto Club Speedway).

Blaney finished ahead of Christopher Bell, Daniel Hemric, Cole Custer and Ryan Preece.

It’s his first win at Texas after three runner-up finishes in his first five starts at the track.

“Our Mustang was amazing all weekend,” Blaney told Fox. “We got behind a little bit getting loose on that restart (with 15 laps to go in Stage 2). With the different strategies in the second stage there, we had to come from behind a little bit. The car was great. … It’s finally nice to win one here in Texas.”

The Team Penske driver started from the pole, which was his second in 66 starts, after a rain-shortened qualifying session.

Only 10 cars finished on the lead lap.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Ryan Blaney

STAGE 2 WINNER: Brandon Jones won in a one-lap shootout for the first stage win of career.

MORE: Click here for results, point standings

WHO HAD A GOOD DAYSpencer Gallagher spun and made contact with the frontstretch wall on Lap 70. He bounced back to finish 10th. … Christopher Bell finished second after being sent to the back for an uncontrolled tire penalty midrace. … Austin Cindric placed ninth for his second top 10 of the season. … Daniel Hemric led a career-best 39 laps.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: There were three cautions in the first 17 laps due to spins by Jamie McMurray, Vinnie Miller and Chad Finchum. … Finchum brought out his second caution late on Lap 81 when he backed hard into the Turn 2 wall. He finished 34th. … Justin Allgaier finished 35th after dealing with mechanical problems. … Brandon Jones finished 33rd after wrecking during the first restart of the final stage. It is his first DNF of the season. … Kevin Harvick finished 19th, two laps down after pitting with 23 to go for a tire vibration.

NOTABLE: The temperature at the start of the race was 34 degrees, making it the coldest NASCAR race run at Texas Motor Speedway. … Christopher Bell, Daniel Hemric, Cole Custer and Ryan Preece qualified to compete in the first round of the Dash 4 Cash next weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It could help me finish building a race car.” – Ryan Preece when asked what he would do with $100,000 Dash 4 Cash prize money.

WHAT’S NEXT: Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway at 1 p.m. ET on April 14 on Fox Sports 1.