Thursday, December 14, 2017

Front Row Motorsports Adds McDowell to 2018 Roster

Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
Michael McDowell will join Front Row Motorsports for the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. McDowell became a free-agent after Leavine Family Racing added Kasey Kahne for the 2018 season. David Ragan will return to the organization, while Roush Fenway Racing ups its technical alliance.

Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
Ragan returns to the organization for the fifth season of his career. Ragan has tallied one victory with Front Row Motorsports back in 2013 at Talladega Superspeedway. Last season, Ragan earned three top-10 finishes.

Michael McDowell drove for FRM in 2013 at Watkins Glen
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
“Bob Jenkins and I have developed a good relationship over the years, both professionally and personally,” Ragan said in the team release. “I believe in this team and am proud to have been part of its growth and its successes. I’m excited that Bob and Ford have agreed to take the program to the next level, and I’m happy I’ll be here to help the team continue to grow.”

As noted above, NASCAR veteran Michael McDowell moves from Leavine Family Racing to FRM. McDowell also transitions back to the blue oval after competing with a Chevrolet since 2015. McDowell has been competing in the Cup Series since 2008 and has secured one top-fives and five top-10s. McDowell has one career start with Front Row Motorsports going back to 2013 at Watkins Glen.

Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
“Since I first drove for Bob at Watkins Glen, we’ve kept in touch and have felt like there might be an opportunity to work together again, and the timing worked out perfectly,” McDowell said in the team release. “It’s been a while since I’ve had a teammate, so I’m really looking forward to working with David, whom I’ve become pretty good friends with over the years. As a team now, we go into the season knowing we have five or six races that put us in position to get a win and earn a spot in the playoffs.”

Dandridge Tennessee native, Bob Jenkins has been a team owner in the Cup Series since 2005. Despite one race in 2008 with the blue oval, the organization went full-time with Ford in 2010, Travis Kvapil, John Andretti, and Robert Richardson Jr. piloting the cars in the 2010 Daytona 500. Ever since Ford has been a cornerstone of the organization.

“Ford has been a great partner for us for the past eight seasons, and we’ve agreed to work together to step up our program quite a bit,” Jenkins said. “We’ve got a lot vested in our partnership – relationships, knowledge, data – that we’re going to build on to make improvements both in the shop and at the track."

Additional information about the team including car numbers, crew chief lineup, and partners will be announced in the coming weeks leading into the 60th Annual Daytona 500. (Koelle,2017)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Start times for NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Races Announced

(Photo-Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images/NASCAR Media)
NASCAR announced the start times for the races in the 2018 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season. 22 of the 23 races next season are slated to be on Fox Sports 1 with the annual Talladega race to return to FOX.

The Eldora main event will start at 9:00 PM/ET and is scheduled to be on FS1. Of course last season the race was moved to Fox Business which shows these TV schedules are subject to change. The Talladega fall race has been on FOX for multiple seasons and is slated to do so again in 2018.

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will race under the lights at Las Vegas Motor Speedway twice next season. For the first time, the NCWTS will race at Las Vegas in March, that race like the traditional race will be under the lights. Both races will begin at 9:00 PM/ET. The full schedule is featured below, all times are eastern standard time.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Start Time

Date Track Start Time
February 16th Daytona Internationa Speedway 7:30 p.m.
February 24th Atlanta Motor Speedway 4:30 p.m.
March 2nd  Las Vegas Motor Speedway 9:00 p.m.
March 24th Martinsville Speedway 2:00 p.m.
May 4th Dover International Speedway 5:00 p.m.
May 11th Kansas Speedway 8:30 p.m.
May 18th Charlotte Motor Speedway 8:30 p.m.
June 8th Texas Motor Speedway 9:00 p.m.
June 16th Iowa Speedway 7:00 p.m.
June 23rd Gateway Motorsports Park 8:30 p.m
June 29th Chicagoland Speedway 9:00 p.m
July 12th Kentucky Speedway 7:30 p.m
July 18th Eldora Speedway 9:00 p.m
July 28th Pocono Raceway 1:00 p.m.
August 11th Michigan International Speedway 1:00 p.m.
August 15th Bristol Motor Speedway 8:30 p.m.
August 26th Canadian Tire Motorsport Park 2:30 p.m.
September 14th Las Vegas Motor Speedway 9:00 p.m.
October 13th Talladega Superspeedway 1:00 p.m.
October 27th Martinsville Speedway 1:00 p.m.
November 2nd Texas Motor Speedway 8:30 p.m.
November 9th ISM Raceway  8:30 p.m.
November 16th Homestead-Miami Speedway 8:00 p.m.
*All times are Eastern Time*

GMS Racing to Supply Technical Support to Niece Motorsports

The No. 45 Niece Motorsports Entry at Pocono in July
(Photo-Christian Koelle/CCK Photography)
Niece Motorsports announced on Wednesday that they will be forming a technical alliance with NCWTS powerhouse GMS Racing for the 2018 season. Already announcing their driver lineup with Justin Fontaine and Austin Wayne Self, adding the technical support will help strengthen the team in 2018.

“I’m really proud of how far this team has come in the last year,” said team owner Al Niece in the team release.  “I’m proud of this team’s growth and everything we’ve accomplished this year.  I’m thrilled to begin working with GMS this offseason and into next year.  This really gives us the chance to improve our program, by aligning with a team that has a proven track record.  It’s going to be our job next year to go out there and perform at a high level.”

Niece Motorsports made their NCWTS debut in 2016 at Texas with Casey Smith. A 23rd place finish would lay the cornerstone for the organization as it built stronger and better in 2017. NASCAR veteran T.J. Bell made the most starts with the team at 15 while Jeffery Abbey, Fontaine, Victor Gonzalez Jr., Travis Pastrana, and Self all filled the remainder of the schedule. The team entered the No. 38 entry in two races last season along with the No. 45 running 22 of the 22 races. Bell earned the teams best finish of 14th three times (Pocono, Texas, and Charlotte) and Gonzalez finished 14th at Eldora. (Koelle,2017)

Justin Fontaine Moving to Niece Motorsports in 2018

Niece Motorsports Press Release
Justin Fontaine will pilot the No. 45 entry for Niece Motorsports starting at the season opener in Daytona. Fontaine moves up from AM Racing in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards where he competed in 13 of the 20 events. Fontaine was slated to run a full season with AM Racing but a fractured back put him out of action all the way until Elko in June. His best finish in ARCA last season came at Winchester where he finished ninth.

“This is an exciting time in my career and I believe I’m ready for this next challenge with Niece Motorsports,” said Fontaine on The Morning Drive. “I know I have a lot to learn, but with the leadership of Niece Motorsports and the support of my management team at AM Racing, I believe I can transition well and produce some good results in my rookie season.”

Fontaine has made three starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with a best finish of 15th at Pocono. He made his Niece Motorsports debut last season at Chicagoland where he finished 17th after starting 17th. 

“We are thrilled to have Justin join the team next season,” said team owner Al Niece in the team release.  “In speaking with Justin, his excitement for the 2018 season is contagious. “As a group, we are really looking forward to getting this season started. There’s a lot of work to be done, but we have a solid group who’s ready to hit the ground running.”

Fontaine will run for Rookie of the Year. Joining him at Niece will be Austin Wayne Self, who will pilot a second full-time entry for the organization. That was announced on October 30th. (Koelle,2017)

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Motorsports Group and Circle Sport Part Ways

Jeffrey Earnhardt during practice for the Food City 500 in April
(Photo-Christian Koelle/CCK Photography)
The Motorsports Group and Circle Sport Racing have announced they will be splitting after the 2017 season.

"We wish them the best", stated TMG owner Curtis Key, Sr. in the team release. "I will continue on this journey and look to rebound for 2018".

This announcement comes just one season into the agreement between the two parties. The two joined forces so that the No. 33 would have a charter in all 36 races last season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Jeffery Earnhardt piloted the car in 34 of the 36 races with Boris Said racing the car in both road course races. Earnhardt had a best finish of 26th three times (Daytona 500, Indianapolis, and Kansas 2).

With the team splitting, a multi-year deal formed for Earnhardt is now off the table and adds him to a list of free agents for the 2018 season. Earnhardt took to Twitter to address the situation.
The remainder of free agents available to The Motorsports Group includes Matt Kenseth, Danica Patrick, Landon Cassill, and Reed Sorenson, whose contract status is unknown. TMG could also pull a driver from the XFINITY Series which would mean the list would be a very long one.

As for Joe Falk and Circle Sport, He does hold a charter to his name as an owner. Falk secured the charter from the No. 33 of Circle Sport Racing. He teamed with Leavine Family Racing in 2016 and could team with a new team in 2017. Currently, two cars are planning on running 2018 as an open team;StarCom Racing and BK Racing's No. 83. Those two teams plans have not been revealed but with a charter, those teams would for sure make all 36 events in 2018. (Koelle,2017)

John Hunter Nemechek to join Chip Ganassi Racing in 2018

Daniel Shirey/Getty Images/NASCAR Media
John Hunter Nemechek is getting called up from the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series to pilot the No. 42 part time in the XFINITY Series with Chip Ganassi Racing part-time. 

“I couldn’t be more excited to join Chip Ganassi Racing," Nemechek said in the press release. "I feel like their cars and organization were the talk of the garage in 2017 and I hope to play a part in continuing their run of success in 2018 and beyond. Also, Fire Alarm Services has been a supporter of my career since 2016 at our family-owned team, and I am looking forward to continuing that partnership at Chip Ganassi Racing. I am extremely grateful to Shannon and Connie Smith, owners of Fire Alarm Services, Inc. I also want to thank my father for all that he has done to help grow my passion for racing.”

Nemechek has spent five seasons in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, two full-time seasons. In his career, he's tallied five victories, 22 top-five's, 38 top-10's, and one pole. He is slated for multiple races in 2018 while sharing the No. 42 with Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Larson.

"We are happy to have John Hunter join our organization and also announce the relationship with Fire Alarm Services," team owner Chip Ganassi said in the press release. "We had a very successful 2017 with our XFINITY program and look to improve upon that.  We feel that John Hunter has the talent to be a future star in the sport and can’t wait to get him behind the wheel.”

That 2017 XFINITY Series campaign featured five victories across three drivers. Both Alex Bowman and Tyler Reddick earned their first career victories in 2017 and both have full-time rides in 2018 (Bowman with Hendrick in MENCS & Reddick with JR Motorsports in NXS). (Koelle,2017)

NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Schedule Released

Otto Kitsinger/NASCAR via Getty Images/NASCAR Media
NASCAR revealed the 2018 K&N Pro Series West Schedule on Monday.

Daniel Shirey/Getty Images for NASCAR/NASCAR Media
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West features some of the best drivers on the west coast at some of the west signature short tracks. Todd Gilliland has won the championship of the series the last two seasons with Chris Eggleston winning the championship in 2015. In 2018, drivers will see a familiar schedule with some new additives to help prepare them for the future in NASCAR's top-three divisions.

The season will start off at Kern County Raceway Park on March 15th and will end at Kern County on October 27th. In-between those two races feature twelve races at tracks from Tucson, Arizona to Madison, Illinois.

The series will run twin 100-lap championship events at Tucson in the second weekend of the season. In addition to Tucson, short tracks will be key if you want to win the NASCAR K&N Pro Series Championship. Round three will feature the quarter-mile Orange Show Speedway in San Bernardino, California.

Jonathan Moore/NASCAR via Getty Images/NASCAR Media
The month of June will feature two short tracks and a traditional visit to the Sonoma Raceway, where the series will join the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Colorado National Speedway and Douglas County Speedway will round out the month of June meaning drivers will have to master two .375-mile tracks.

Jonathan Moore/NASCAR via Getty Images/NASCAR Media
Spokane County Raceway and Iowa Speedway heat up July. At Iowa, the best of the West will meet with the best of the East for the first of two combination races. A visit to Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Washington on August 11th will split the combo races as the two series meet at Gateway Motorsports Park to do battle together for one final time in 2018.

For the first time since 1979, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West will race on dirt. On Thursday, September 13th, the series visits Las Vegas Motor Speedway Dirt Track to help kick off the triple-header NASCAR weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. An extra additive to prepare drivers for Eldora in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

Drivers will battle for the famous Meridian Water Tower trophy on September 29th. To end the season the series heads to All-American Speedway in Rossville California and then, as noted above, the season is capped off with a return to Kern County Raceway where the series will crown a champion.

Irwindale Speedway is the only track from 2017 that will not return to the schedule in 2018. Of course, Irwindale will close after January 31st, 2018 to make room for a new shopping mall. The series has visited the track since 1999 and has seen drivers like Brendan Gaughan, Jason Bowles, Brian Ickler, Todd Gilliland, and many more have visited its victory lane.