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Jeffrey Earnhardt releases remaining races for 2019

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Jeffrey Earnhardt announced his schedule for the rest of the season Friday.

He is scheduled to run six Xfinity races and one Cup race the rest of this season.

His Xfinity races will be Mid-Ohio (Aug. 10), Bristol (Aug. 16), Road America (Aug. 24), Darlington (Aug. 31), ISM Raceway (Nov. 9) and Miami (Nov. 16). He’ll drive the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Xfinity car at Mid-Ohio, Road America, ISM Raceway and Miami. He’ll drive the No. 81 Xtreme Concepts Racing car at Bristol and Darlington.

He’ll also drive the No. 81 Xtreme Concepts Racing Cup car at Talladega on Oct. 13.

Friday 5: Xfinity driver’s quest for success goes one call at a time

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“Hey, my name is Brandon. What do you think of NASCAR?”

That’s not how Xfinity Series driver Brandon Brown starts every phone call looking for sponsorship, but sometimes it’s not too far off.

While other drivers watch film, run laps on iRacing, work out or fulfill sponsor obligations during the week, Brown often is on the phone looking for sponsorship for his family’s team.

That’s life in the middle of the field in the Xfinity Series where the chassis are older, sponsorships harder to find, pit crew members interchangeable and results are overshadowed by the dominance of Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer.

Through it all — and that includes Brown moving from his family’s primary car to another ride twice because someone else brought sponsorship money — Brown is 14th in points heading into Sunday’s Xfinity race at Iowa Speedway.

He is 97 points out of the final playoff spot, held by Joe Gibbs Racing’s Brandon Jones. While the playoffs would be quite an accomplishment, it will be difficult for a team such as Brown’s to top many of the better-funded organizations ahead.

Even so, Brown is reaching one of his goals for the season.

Brandon Brown (right) races Jeremy Clements (51), Justin Haley (11) and Jeffrey Earnhardt (18) at Charlotte last month. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

“Our focus this year was to crack the top 15,” he told NBC Sports. “Getting a top-10 finish would be great. I don’t want it to be because the leaders wrecked. Superspeedways, we can count them if we want, but that’s like a crapshoot. We want to earn a top 10 this year.”

He hasn’t gotten there yet. Brown finished a career-best 13th this season at Atlanta, Dover and Pocono.

It’s not easy to get into the top 10 with a fleet of older chassis that includes those once driven by John Wes Townley at Athenian Motorsports. Brown said the team also added some Richard Childress Racing chassis when RCR downsized its program.

There have been other changes throughout the season. Brown has had seven different pit crew combinations in the first 13 races because not everyone they’ve used is always available. With tenths of a second often the difference between gaining or losing spots on pit road, the less a crew and driver are familiar with each other, the longer it can take to complete stops.

“When you’re switching to new guys, I don’t think they know what to expect (from the driver) until after the first stop,” he said.

Brown’s biggest challenge, though, is money, especially for a team with fewer than a dozen full-time employees. Even Brown has a dual role. The team’s website lists him as marketing director/driver.

That means the 25-year-old makes a lot of phone calls.

“The goal is obviously to search for any company that has expressed any interest in motorsports at all, whether it is circle track racing, road course racing, dirt bike, whatever,” Brown told NBC Sports. “Also, it kind of comes down to who do we know, who do any friends and family know, try to make some sort of a connection so that it’s not a complete cold (call), ‘Hey my name is Brandon, what do you think of NASCAR?’

“It’s going through everybody’s rolodex in the shop because a lot of the guys come from different areas, try to pull from each one of them.”

For every phone call that provides hope, there are many more rejections or calls that aren’t returned.

Brandon Brown has finished in the top 20 in 11 of the season’s first 13 Xfinity races. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

“It’s definitely tedious,” said Brown, who graduated from Coastal Carolina University in December. “It’s not the most fun at all. I understand that each and every team in the garage in some shape or form has gone through something similar. I just kind of throw it up to growing pains and just kind of look forward to … a day where I can just go to the track and come home and just focus on watching film or doing a simulator.”

Until then, he’ll keep looking for money for Brandonbilt Motorsports, which is running its first full-time season in NASCAR.

Brown ran the season’s first seven Xfinity races without a primary sponsor. He has had a sponsor in five of the past six races. Vero True Social is back as a sponsor this weekend at Iowa after it served in that role at Charlotte and Michigan.

“It all comes down to the dollar that keeps the race team alive,”  Brown said.

He will remain in the No. 86 for the foreseeable future since no one has purchased any more races at this time.

Even with all the challenges, Brown has made gains. His season-worst 26th-place finish last weekend at Michigan ended a streak of five consecutive top-20 finishes. Despite not having sponsorship early in the season, he opened with six top 20s in a row.

“We want to peg up the ladder,” Brown said. “We understand as a team where we are in comparison to the rest of the garage.”

That doesn’t mean he’s satisfied with staying there. So he keeps calling, searching for the money that will help this team climb higher.

2. Familiar foes

Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer have combined to win each of the last seven Xfinity races heading into Iowa Speedway this weekend.

Reddick has three wins during that stretch, while Bell and Custer each have two wins.

Reddick notes how competition between helps make each better.

“Every single week and every single lap I feel like, if say I’m leading and they’re catching me, I push harder, if I’m catching them, they push harder,” Reddick told NBC Sports of Bell and Custer. “Most people I’m able to run down and catch and make something happen, but those two are definitely the hardest to pass. They work the hardest to keep you behind them. It’s a lot of fun battling with them.”

3. Wanting to scream!

Chase Cabre did just that after winning his first K&N Pro Series East race June 2 at Memphis International Raceway. The win came in his 33rd career series start.

Chase Cabre celebrating his NASCAR K&N Pro Series East win June 2. (Photo: Nigel Kinrade/NKP, NASCAR)

Cabre, in his third season in the series, had three runner-up finishes, including two this year, before the win.

OK, so once the celebration in victory lane is done, the car passes inspection, and it’s time to leave, then what?

Cabre drove back to the Charlotte area with his mom and brother but first they stopped for dinner at a Red Robin restaurant.

“It’s funny how the emotions change so fast,” Cabre told NBC Sports. “You get out, you’re screaming and the next thing you know you want everybody to realize I won. (At the restaurant), nobody here knows you won.

“They have no clue. ‘What are you so excited about?’ “

If only they knew.

4. Truck debut

Sixteen-year-old Chandler Smith makes his Gander Outdoors Truck Series debut this weekend at Iowa Speedway. He’ll be in the No. 51 for Kyle Busch Motorsports. The Toyota development driver has three ARCA wins and six poles in 13 starts. His most recent ARCA victory was May 19 at Toledo (Ohio) Speedway.

Smith also is scheduled to drive for KBM on June 28 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, Aug. 15 at Bristol Motor Speedway and Nov. 7 at ISM Raceway. He will drive the KBM Super Late Model Oct. 13 at the Winchester (Speedway) 400, Nov. 3 in the All-American 400 at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway and Dec. 2 in the Snowball Derby.

5. Chastain’s chase

In his first Truck series race since declaring for Truck points, Ross Chastain scored 38 points for his 10th-place finish last week at Texas Motor Speedway.

He must be in the top 20 in points to be eligible for a playoff spot should he win. His Kansas victory does not count toward playoff eligibility because he had not declared for Truck points at the time.

Chastain enters this weekend 64 points out of 20th place in the season standings. Anthony Alfredo is 20th with 102 points.

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Preliminary entry lists for Cup, Xfinity at Pocono

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Following this past Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, the 26-race NASCAR Cup regular season is now halfway down before the playoffs.

Sunday, the Cup and Xfinity series visit the 2.5-mile Tricky Triangle, otherwise known as Pocono Raceway. The NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series is off until June 7 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for this weekend’s two races:

Cup – Pocono 400 (2 p.m. ET Sunday on FS1)

Thirty-seven cars are entered.

Cody Ware will make his fifth consecutive start and 11th overall in the No. 51 Petty Ware Racing Chevrolet, while JJ Yeley will be in the No. 52 Rick Ware Racing Ford. Quin Houff will be back in the No. 77 Spire Motorsports Chevy.

Martin Truex Jr. is the defending race winner, beating Kyle Larson.

Click here for the preliminary entry list.

Xfinity – Pocono Green 250 (1 p.m. ET Saturday on FS1)

There are 38 cars entered in this race.

Cup regular Austin Dillon will be in the No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet. Cup regular Ryan Preece will drive the No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet.

Camden Murphy is entered in the No. 17 Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet.

Ronnie Bassett Jr. will make his fifth start of the season in the No. 90 DGM Racing Chevrolet.

Jeffrey Earnhardt is back in the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing for a second consecutive weekend. 

Kyle Busch won this race last year, beating Chase Elliott.

Click here for the preliminary entry list.

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NASCAR will review Kyle Larson’s airborne crash on last lap

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NASCAR will investigate Kyle Larson’s last-lap crash Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway after the No. 42 Chevrolet went airborne after a spin and rolled over several times.

After being hit on the right side by William Byron’s No. 24 Chevy, Larson’s car slid sideways toward the inside SAFER barrier on the backstretch.

About 50 feet from the wall, his right-rear tire began lifting off the pavement. Larson’s car was virtually perpendicular to the pavement when it impacted the barrier head on and then flipped multiple times.

NASCAR often has reacted with safety enhancement after cars have gotten airborne by spinning. After multiple cars went airborne in the May 1, 2016 race, NASCAR also launched an investigation. Larson’s incident was similar to Matt Kenseth’s in the race three years ago as their cars seemed to lift off without contact in both instances.

“Initially I thought I was going to hit the inside wall and right before I got there, it started to lift,” said the Chip Ganassi Racing driver, who finished 24th. “That was probably the longest flip I’ve ever had. I just didn’t know if it would ever stop.

“I knew I was flipping and was just hoping I wouldn’t get any closer to the catchfence. It was a little bit scary, but I’m all right. Thanks to the fab shop at Chip Ganassi Racing for building safe race cars. Like I said, it was scary, but I’m just thankful I’m OK.”

NASCAR spokesman Tom Bryant told NBCSports.com’s Dustin Long that the crash would be analyzed to “determine all the factors that led to it.”

The four-car wreck began when David Ragan (who said the wreck “was my fault”) bumped Byron, starting the chain reaction that collected Jeffrey Earnhardt and Larson.

It was the second incident on the final lap. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had crashed hard into the outside wall shortly after winner Chase Elliott took the white flag, but NASCAR (which was monitoring Stenhouse’s wreck) held the yellow until just as the final wreck began.

NASCAR said the last yellow was because of debris from Stenhouse’s No. 17 Ford. The race report initially listed the reason for the last caution as “17, 24, 42, 38, 81, incident backstretch” (even though Stenhouse’s crash happened on the frontstretch) but was updated as of Monday morning to show the final caution was for “Debris.”

There were three multicar crashes in the race, but Larson’s Camaro was the only car to get airborne after concerns about escalating speeds with a new rules package.

Ryan Newman told Long after practice Friday that NASCAR had prepared poorly for the spike in increased closing rates.

“I think we kept most of the race cars on the race track which was probably a lot of luck,” Newman said Sunday after finishing seventh. “I don’t know that (the racing) was much different. You got bigger runs, but the end result was basically the same. We are still at the mercy of other people’s mistakes which will always be a part of racing here. In the end I am glad all the race cars stayed on the racetrack.”

NASCAR Avengers: Endgame edition

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It’s April, so that means it’s time for another Marvel’s Avengers save the world yet again in movie theaters around the globe.

Avengers: Endgame will be released tonight and it’s expected to make an impressive amount of money despite being three hours long. Yes, three hours.

We decided to exploit the series’ attention for the second year in a row by making our own Avengers lineup of NASCAR drivers.

Just like in the comics/movies, the roster has changed some, but not due to a contract dispute/scheduling conflict/being snapped out of existence.

Send your Avengers/NASCAR recommendations to Daniel McFadin.

Stan Lee – Since our first Avengers posts last year, Jim France has assumed the position of NASCAR Chairman and CEO. He’s the perfect person to make a cameo in our NASCAR Avengers movie like the late comic book creator.

Nick Fury – Steve Phelps took over as NASCAR’s president last year. Now give that man an eyepatch.

Iron Man – Austin Dillon has that outlandish Tony Stark style and he parties like the billionaire playboy philanthropist would if he owned a barn and some fancy cars.

Rocket RaccoonTony Stewart isn’t a talking animal. But the talking raccoon is a weapons expert who likes to make things go boom and isn’t afraid to speak his mind. If you’re ever in a tight spot that requires the use of a flame thrower, Stewart is your man.

Star Lord AKA Peter Quill – Nothing changed here. Clint Bowyer is still from the Midwest and he’s still the driver most likely to call someone a “turd blossom.”

Captain America/Falcon/Winter Soldier – Captain America and Falcon bring to mind the Ryan Blaney/Bubba Wallace duo and NASCAR’s best bromance. Chase Elliott gets the nod as the Winter Soldier anti-hero because he doesn’t get invited to their hangouts. Also, Blaney has to shave his facial hair every year like Steve Rogers in Endgame.

Spider-Man – The 18-year-old Harrison Burton takes Spidey’s web-shooters from William Byron. Somebody born after Y2K should get in on the action here.

The Incredible Hulk – Don’t make Daniel Suarez angry, especially in qualifying.

Thor – Since the “God of Thunder” got a hair cut and trimmed his beard recently, Jeffrey Earnhardt is replaced in the role by Kyle Busch and his beard.

Doctor Strange – Last year, Brad Keselowski was the pick here, but Ryan Preece gets the nod in 2019. Magic is the only reasonable explanation for how he’s avoided some wrecks this season.

Drax the Destroyer – Just like this Guardian of the Galaxy, it takes a lot to make Paul Menard smile.

Captain Marvel – The newest Avenger on the scene must be played by two-time K&N Pro  Series West winner Hailie Deegan.