RFK Racing, Trackhouse Racing, Hendrick Motorsports announce sponsors

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RFK Racing, Trackhouse Racing and Hendrick Motorsports each announced primary sponsorship deals Monday.

King’s Hawaiian, which served as a primary sponsor in three races last year, returns to RFK Racing and Brad Keselowski’s No. 6 car this year. King’s Hawaiian will expand its role and be a primary sponsor for nine races. 

The first race with the sponsor will be this weekend’s Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. King’s Hawaiian also will be the primary sponsor on Keselowski’s car for Atlanta (March 19), Bristol Dirt (April 9), Kansas (May 7), World Wide Technology Raceway (June 4), Sonoma (June 11), Pocono (July 23), Daytona (Aug. 26) and Martinsville (Oct. 29).

Jockey returns to sponsor the Trackhouse cars of Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez for three races each this season with its Made in America Collection.

Jockey will be on the No. 99 car for Suarez at this weekend’s Busch Light Clash, the Bristol Dirt Race (April 9) and  Martinsville (Oct. 29).

Chastain’s No. 1 car will have Jockey as the primary sponsor at Richmond (April 2), Dover (April 30) and Michigan (Aug. 6).

Hooters returns to Hendrick Motorsports and will be the primary sponsor on the No. 9 car of Chase Elliott for the Bristol Dirt Race (April 9), the Chicago street course event (July 2) and Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 22).

Surveying key race dates for the 2023 Cup season

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NASCAR Cup Series cars will fire up again Feb. 5 as the 2023 season begins with the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum in Los Angeles.

Two weeks later, the regular season opens with the Feb. 19 Daytona 500, for decades the curtain-raiser for the Cup Series’ 10-month cross-country marathon.

With only a single week break in mid-June, the Cup schedule visits familiar stops like Darlington, Bristol, Martinsville, Talladega and Dover but adds two new locations that should be highlights of the year — North Wilkesboro and Chicago.

Here’s a look at key races for each month of the season:

February — With all due respect to the unique posture of the Clash at the Coliseum (Feb. 5) and the apparent final race on the 2-mile track at Auto Club Speedway (Feb. 26) before it’s converted to a half-mile track, the Daytona 500 won’t be surpassed as a February highlight. Since the winter of 1959, the best stock car racers in the land have gathered on the Atlantic shore to brighten the winter, and the results often are memorable. Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Jeff Gordon and so many others have starred on Daytona’s high ground, and sometimes even rookies shine (see Austin Cindric’s victory last year).

MORE: Friday 5: Legacy aiming for breakout season

March — The newly reconfigured Atlanta Motor Speedway saw its racing radically changed last year with higher banks and straights that are tighter. The track now is considered more in the Daytona/Talladega superspeedway “family” than an intermediate speedway, generating a bit of the unknown for close pack racing. William Byron and Chase Elliott won at AMS last year.

April — Ah, the return to Martinsville (April 16). Despite the rumors, Ross Chastain’s wild last-lap charge in last October’s Martinsville race did not destroy the speedway. Will somebody try to duplicate Chastain’s move this time? Not likely, but no one expected what he did, either.

May — North Wilkesboro Speedway is back. Abandoned by NASCAR in 1996, the track’s revival reaches its peak May 21 when the Cup All-Star Race comes to town, putting Cup cars on one of stock car racing’s oldest tracks for the first time in a quarter century.

June — The June 11 Sonoma road course race will end 17 consecutive weeks of racing for the Cup Series. The schedule’s only break is the following weekend, with racing resuming June 25 at Nashville Superspeedway. Sonoma last year opened the door for the first Cup win by Daniel Suarez.

July — The July holiday weekend will offer one of the biggest experiments in the history of NASCAR. For the first time, Cup cars will race through the streets of a major city, in this case Chicago on July 2. If the race is a success, similar events could follow on future schedules.

August — The Aug. 26 race at Daytona is the final chance for drivers to qualify for the playoffs, ratcheting up the tension of the late-summer race considerably.

September — The Cup playoffs open with the Southern 500, making Darlington Raceway a key element in determining which drivers have easier roads in advancing to the next round.

October — The Oct. 29 Martinsville race is the last chance to earn a spot in the Championship Four with a race victory. Christopher Bell did it last year in a zany finish.

November — Phoenix. The desert. Four drivers, four cars and four teams for the championship.

 

Chase Elliott will run Truck race at Daytona

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Former Cup Series champion Chase Elliott will drive a McAnally Hilgemann Racing Chevrolet in the season-opening Craftsman Truck Series race Feb. 17 at Daytona International Speedway.

The race will mark Elliott’s 18th career Truck start. He’ll be sponsored by NAPA Auto Care.

“This will be the first time I’ve driven a truck at Daytona, let alone a superspeedway,” Elliott said in a team release. “There’s no better team owner than Bill McAnally to do it with, as he’s been involved in racing and been associated with NAPA for a long time.”

MORE: Jimmie Johnson on his first laps in Next Gen car, 2023 schedule 

Elliott will drive the team’s No. 35 truck. Jake Garcia will take over the truck at Las Vegas Motor Speedway March 3.

“I think there’s an incredible amount of potential for our team to make a lot of noise this year, and we have the people to make it happen,” McAnally said.

Elliott owns three career Truck wins.

MHR also announced Wednesday its crew chief lineup for the season. Mark Hillman will work with Elliott and Garcia. Charles Denike will be crew chief for Christian Eckes and the No. 19 truck. Chad Norris, formerly of GMS Racing, has joined the team as general manager.

 

 

A look at Cup driver uniforms for 2023

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It won’t be long before cars are on track for the Feb. 5 Busch Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Before the action takes place there, check out the driver uniforms for the 2023 Cup season.

Listed below are the drivers, based on their car numbers. Driver uniform pictures are not yet available for AJ Allmendinger, Noah Gragson, Erik Jones, Ty Gibbs and Ty Dillon. The rest of the drivers with chartered teams are displayed here.

 

1 – Ross Chastain

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

2 – Austin Cindric

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(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

3 – Austin Dillon

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

4 – Kevin Harvick

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(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

5 – Kyle Larson

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(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

6 – Brad Keselowski

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

7 – Corey LaJoie

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

8 – Kyle Busch

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

9 – Chase Elliott

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

10 – Aric Almirola

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

11 – Denny Hamlin

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

12 – Ryan Blaney

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

14 – Chase Briscoe

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

17 – Chris Buescher

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

19 – Martin Truex Jr.

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

20 – Christopher Bell

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

21 – Harrison Burton

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

22 – Joey Logano

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

23 – Bubba Wallace

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

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(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

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(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

24 – William Byron

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

31 – Justin Haley

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

34 – Michael McDowell

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(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

38 – Todd Gilliland

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(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

41 – Ryan Preece

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

45 – Tyler Reddick

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(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

47 – Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

48 – Alex Bowman

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

51 – Cody Ware

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

78 – BJ McLeod

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

99 – Daniel Suarez

2023 NASCAR Production Days
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

Long: Kevin Harvick has provided a spark for NASCAR through the years

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The assignment for the sixth grade class in Bakersfield, California, was to write about career goals. 

Even then, Kevin Harvick stood out.

The son of a firefighter, Harvick didn’t forecast riding siren-screaming trucks to emergencies. Instead, he detailed how he would race wheel-screeching cars and reach the NASCAR Winston Cup Series by age 30.

Harvick made it when he was 25 years old. 

MORE: 10 stellar moments in Kevin Harvick’s career

While his path seemed simple, it has been anything but for the future NASCAR Hall of Famer, who announced Thursday that this season — his 23rd in Cup — will be his final year. 

The 47-year-old has spent nearly half his life racing in NASCAR’s premier series, winning a championship and building a legacy, but nothing compares to his first Cup season.

Scheduled to compete in select Cup races in 2001 while running a full Busch Series schedule for car owner Richard Childress, those plans changed when Dale Earnhardt died in a last-lap crash in the Daytona 500.

Childress asked Harvick to drive for Earnhardt’s team. 

“This will undoubtedly be the hardest thing that ever happens in my life,” Harvick said before his Cup debut at North Carolina Speedway, the week after Earnhardt’s crash. 

That race took place amid what was to be one of the happiest moments of Harvick’s life.

Harvick and wife DeLana were to be married in Las Vegas two days after the rain-delayed race. They thought about postponing it, but Childress told them not to do so. He told them that if ever there was a time for happiness, it was then.

Eleven days later, Harvick, in a white No. 29 car, nipped Jeff Gordon’s brightly colored car by six-thousandths of a second to win at Atlanta in what remains the fifth-closest Cup finish since electronic scoring debuted in 1993.  

Harvick appeared on the way to immediate stardom, but his path veered. While many wanted him to be an Earnhardt clone, Harvick sought his own identity. Conflict ensued.

Harvick’s feistiness led to confrontations with drivers. An altercation with Chad Little in the Darlington garage after a Busch Series race in 2001 led to a $10,000 fine and probation. 

After being wrecked by Greg Biffle in a Busch race at Bristol in 2002, Harvick leapt onto the trunk of Biffle’s car after the race and then lunged at Biffle. 

Two races later, NASCAR parked Harvick for the Martinsville Cup race a day after he wrecked Coy Gibbs in the Truck race in retaliation for an earlier incident. Ordered to report to the NASCAR hauler after the on-track incident, Harvick stopped his truck two feet from the rear of the hauler and left his truck there. 

In 2003 at Richmond, contact from Ricky Rudd sent Harvick into the wall. After the race, Harvick parked his wrecked car next to Rudd’s on pit road. Harvick yelled at Rudd before walking across the hood of Rudd’s car. Asked what Harvick said to him, Rudd said he didn’t hear because “(Harvick’s) got that little yap-yap mouth.”

Harvick has been at the center of other memorable quotes. After the fortunate timing of a caution helped Jimmie Johnson win at Auto Club Speedway in 2010, Harvick said of Johnson’s team: “They have a golden horseshoe stuck up their ass.”

Later that season, Joey Logano, upset after contact from Harvick spun him late in a race at Pocono, told reporters: “It’s probably not his fault. His wife wears the fire suit in the family.”

Other times, Harvick has shined. He has often done things differently. He signed to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing a year before his contract with Richard Childress Racing ended after the 2013 season. Despite predictions that Harvick would falter in a lame-duck season, he won four races and finished third in points, tying for his best points result to that point.

He won the Cup title the following season at SHR. Partnered with crew chief Rodney Childers, they formed a team that got better with age. Twenty-nine of Harvick’s 60 Cup victories have come after he turned 40 — a time when driver careers often slow instead of accelerate.

He still has the fire, as was evident in his confrontation on pit road with Chase Elliott at Bristol during the 2021 playoffs. Elliott was upset with Harvick for contact that cut Elliott’s tire late. Harvick was upset with Elliott impeding him in the final laps, costing Harvick the win. The feud continued for a couple of weeks, leading to Harvick punting Elliott at the Charlotte Roval.

Harvick also has shown signs of growth. He’s become more focused on the direction of the sport. He’s served as a mentor for young drivers. As driver angst grew about injuries last year, Harvick spoke out about safety concerns last fall.

Now, he prepares for his final season as a driver. It’s a long way back from when he would work with his dad under a race car at age 3 and help “fix” it. That meant sticking spark plugs into crevices only to see those spark plugs bounce out from underneath the car once it was on track.

Then again, Harvick didn’t need those spark plugs. He provides the spark.