Wednesday, Dec 01
Speedway Digest Staff

Speedway Digest Staff

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Earlier this year, Front Row Motorsports was contacted by Nathan Romberg, a journalism student at the University of Wyoming who lives and champions those who live life on the spectrum. Romberg is a big fan of Michael McDowell, the No. 34 team, and NASCAR as a whole, and as such, has focused on the team’s historical season and written how he viewed it. He also received feedback from McDowell and crew chief Drew Blickensderfer on how they viewed their year.

The following is told by Romberg:

It’s the last lap of the Daytona 500 – NASCAR’s biggest race – and you are in the driver’s seat, running third, with a long line of cars behind you. For years, you have worked for this moment, to have a chance to reach the famed checkered flag first, not just for the 500, but for any NASCAR event.

Rounding Turns 1 and 2, you get a push from behind to reach the two competitors standing between you and racing immortality. That bump just got forces you into the car in second as the field heads down the backstretch. You see that car get loose and turn around the car in first. It’s as if the sea has parted in front of you. After 358 tries, you’ve finally done it. You’ve won the Daytona 500 and your first NASCAR Cup Series event.

It may be crazy to think, but for Michael McDowell and the No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford team, this very scenario played out in February to start their 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season.

Looking back at that night, McDowell had a similar evaluation. “We felt like we were in a good position all night. We worked so well with the Ford team, had good pit stops, made no mistakes and it all came together on the last lap. The excitement happened in real time. We took the lead and the checkered. So, we knew we were probably going to be called the winner by NASCAR. Then, they did, and it’s all excitement.”

For them, it was just the start of an incredible and consistent season of growth. With a win, playoff appearance, two top-fives and seven top-10 finishes this season, McDowell and the No. 34 team have found ways to improve their race team’s performance and allow for much bigger growth in the future.

After the team’s unexpected Daytona 500 win locked them into the playoffs (win, and you’re in), McDowell and the No. 34 team proved that their performance at the 500 was no fluke, netting an eighth-place finish at the Daytona Road Course the following weekend and a sixth-place result at Homestead-Miami Speedway the week after that. While a lack of qualifying on account of COVID-19 protocols meant that the field was set by metric from past race performances, the No. 34 team showed that they did belong with the big dogs.

Having already had a strong start to the season, McDowell and the team were also rewarded with an appearance in NASCAR’s All-Star Race in Texas in June as a result of the Daytona 500 win. For the Love’s crew, it provided a bit of a fun break from the stresses of regular-season points racing – after all, who wouldn’t want to race for a million dollars? As McDowell puts it, “It’s just a lot of fun. That’s a race for the fans to enjoy. So, you’re looking to put on a good show. It’s cool to be a part of it, but it’s really all for the fans to see something different.” While they didn’t win the million, finishing 12th ahead of some of NASCAR’s other biggest names was rather impressive. And they could build on that when they visited Texas again in the fall.

As the 2021 season progressed into the summer months, McDowell and the Love’s team began to settle into a rhythm - though it was not without its struggles. Despite finishing third at the Talladega Superspeedway and seventh at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin in May, bad luck and some poor races hurt the team’s momentum heading into the playoffs, including a late race wreck at the Indianapolis Road Course. The team had high hopes in their return to Daytona in August, but engine troubles prevented them from possibly sweeping the Daytona oval events. It left the Daytona 500 champions with a bit of a mixed bag entering the playoffs.

McDowell’s crew chief, Drew Blickensderfer, said: “For us, as a smaller team, we were proud to have had such a strong start to our season. We lost some momentum in the summer, but we had a fast car to start the Playoffs. We just had misfortune. But, overall, we’re very proud of the steps we took. We just want to be to more consistent.”

Entering the NASCAR Playoffs at Darlington in September, the No. 34 team was seeded 13th in points out of the 16-driver playoff grid based on their win and consistent performances early in the season. As they only needed to pass one car in points to make it into the next three-race round of 12, spirits were high. As Blickensderfer mentioned, McDowell’s crew had built quite the Ford Mustang for him at the Southern 500 in Darlington, the Labor Day weekend opener for the playoffs.

“We have pressure every week to give Michael the best car. So, we’re always working hard to get better. During the Playoffs, we had fast cars. We’re proud of that.”

Even then, the team’s mid-season struggles found a way to continue into the playoffs. An early wreck at the Southern 500 left McDowell and the Love’s team in a must-win scenario, and a series of compounding pit road penalties at Richmond the following week did not help. Despite this, McDowell and the No. 34 crew soldiered on, doing their best to get a win and advance to the round of 12 at Bristol. As Blickensderfer puts it, “You just move on, learn and try and get better for the next time.”

While failing to advance to the next round, the No. 34 team and McDowell have been able to mount some strong finishes to close out the season and return to their spring highs, with four straight top-20 finishes at Talladega’s fall race, the Charlotte Roval, Texas (repeating the strong success of their All-Star run there in June), and Kansas. In addition, considerable improvements with their mile-and-a-half program has allowed the team to look toward an even brighter and more successful 2022. Could that include more wins in the Next Gen car and a stronger or deeper playoff run? Well, if you ask McDowell about it, he seems pretty confident. And why wouldn’t he? He is the defending Daytona 500 champion, after all.

“We hope so! That’s always the goal. I do like the Next Gen car, the schedule and I think it fits my strengths. It’s hard to win, but I think we can put up front and compete.”

Even then, no one really knows for sure, as there still are some logistical headaches that come with a new car. As McDowell said: “This will put everyone on an equal playing field, but we’re still faced with the same challenges of relying on simulation, setup, and data. So, we’ll have to continue to work hard with the group we have. But, I like our guys.”

For now, McDowell and the No. 34 team can still look back at that Sunday night in February as a good omen for what lay ahead for them in 2021 - and even into 2022.

FRM PR

With a limited number of tickets remaining for the 64th Annual Great American Race fans need to act now to take advantage of a host of DAYTONA 500 Holiday packages, which are on sale for a limited time, offering up to 30% off for DAYTONA Speedweeks Presented By AdventHealth events.

 

The DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway is set for Presidents’ Day Weekend, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022, and it will be the site of the points-race debut of the NASCAR Cup Series anticipated ‘Next Gen’ car. Tickets are selling fast for the DAYTONA 500 and fans are encouraged to make their plans now. The Cup cars will be in action on Thursday, Feb. 17 during the Bluegreen Vacations Duel at DAYTONA qualifying races. Friday (Feb. 18) will see the NextEra Energy 250 for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series while Saturday, Feb. 19 will feature a doubleheader, with the Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. 300 for the NASCAR Xfinity Series and the Lucas Oil 200 Driven by General Tire for the ARCA Menards Series.

 

In addition to purchasing a DAYTONA 500 tickets, for only $100 more, fans can attend all the leading events to the DAYTONA 500. The longer fans stay as part of for DAYTONA Speedweeks Presented By AdventHealth, the more the savings. Here’s the specific breakdown of economic opportunities, which end on Dec. 31:

 

Offer 1: $199

  • Single-Day DAYTONA 500 Ticket and $25 Merchandise Voucher; Savings of 20%.


Offer 2: $239
                                                                                                  

  • Single-Day DAYTONA 500 Ticket, General Admission Ticket to Saturday’s Doubleheader (Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. 300 and Lucas Oil 200 Driven by General Tire) and $25 Merchandise Voucher; Savings of 22%.

 

Offer 3: $299 (Best Savings!)

  • Single-Day DAYTONA 500 Ticket, General Admission Ticket for all Leading Events (Bluegreen Vacations Duel at DAYTONA Qualifying Races, NextEra Energy 250, Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. 300 and Lucas Oil 200 Driven by General Tire) and $25 Merchandise Voucher; Savings of 30%.

 

UNOH Fanzone and Premium Parking are available to add to any holiday package. DAYTONA Speedweeks Presented By AdventHealth will have fully open frontstretch seating, expanded camping, hospitality and pre-race experiences.

 

The Next Gen car, a collaboration of the brightest engineering minds in racing and the automotive industry, is designed to give the drivers greater control. It will put an emphasis back on race strategies, team personnel and vehicle setups while returning the ‘stock car’ look to NASCAR. The cars are set to put on great racing for fans, incorporate relevant technology and look more like street version vehicles.

 

For ticket information on the 2022 DAYTONA 500, as well as Speedweeks Presented By AdventHealth events, log onto www.DAYTONA500.com or call 1-800-PITSHOP.  Fans can stay connected with Daytona International Speedway on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for the latest speedway news.

 

DIS PR

The famous Moose Racing Team will bring the curtain down on its 2021 season this weekend when driver Austin Williams battles with the top stars in the USAC/CRA and USAC National Sprint Car Series in the “54th Annual Western World Championship” at the Arizona Speedway.  The preliminaries will take place on Friday night with the finale running on Saturday.

Williams heads to the race in the “Copper State” in third position in the USAC/CRA driver point standings.  In addition, car owners Tom and Lauri Sertich are in third in the car owner standings.  Both the team and the driver have a firm grip on the position heading into the last two races of the year.

Saturday’s race will not only be the last of the year for the Moose #92 and Williams, but it will also be the last time they compete on the desert track.  After a race the last weekend of November, the track that is located south of Phoenix will cease operation and the property will be redeveloped.  Strong rumors persist that the promoter will have another track up and ready in the Phoenix area for 2022.

Last weekend Moose Racing, and Williams took on the best traditional sprint car drivers in the nation in the “25th Annual Oval Nationals” at Perris Auto Speedway.  Over the first two nights of action, the Huntington Beach, California team, and driver Williams were the best of the USAC/CRA contingent.  On Thursday night, Williams laid down a sizzling 16.652 lap in qualifying.  That was not only the best of all the CRA teams, but it was fifth fastest in the 36-car field.  He followed that up by placing fifth in his heat and having to contest the B main.   Second in the B put him into the A main event where he started ninth.  From there Williams moved forward and recorded the best finish of any USAC/CRA driver by placing seventh.

Twenty-four hours later the #92 and Williams recorded the 11th fastest time in qualifying before earning a direct ticket into the main event with a fourth-place finish in the 10-lap heat race.  This time the 31-year-old started 12th in the 30-lap main.  He again moved forward to finish ninth.  For the second night in a row, that was the best finish of the CRA drivers.

After his prowess in nights one and two, things looked bright for Saturday.  Right out of the box, Williams looked good.  Of the 28 cars that took time trials, the Corona, California driver was fifth fastest for the second time in 48-hours.   Unfortunately, that was the last bright spot of the weekend.  In the heat race, the car was having some mechanical issues and did not transfer to the A main.  Later in the B main, Williams started on the pole, but it was obvious the car was still having issues as he slid backwards in the field.  When the 12-lapper was over, Williams was seventh and that was one place out of transfer.

After the issues in the B-main, the Moose Team had a provisional at its disposal to start the in the 40-lap finale.  Rather than risking doing damage to the internals of the car, they decided to sit the main out and get ready for this weeks “Western World.”

For fans who would like to see Williams and the famous Moose car in person this week, spectator gates will open at 3:00 p.m. each afternoon with racing at 7:00.  The track is located at 48700 N. Ironwood, in San Tan Valley, AZ (85140).  The website is https://www.arizonaspeedway.net/and the office phone is (480) 926-6688.

While the racing season ends in Arizona this weekend, the Moose Racing team will immediately begin work for a busy 2022 campaign that will open with three races at the Cocopah Speedway in Yuma, Arizona in late January.  The crew will completely strip down the cars and go over them with a fine-tooth comb, so they are race ready for the openers.  In addition, the team will be exploring the possibility of adding marketing partners for another run at the USAC/CRA championship.  If you or your business would like to discuss coming on board with one of America’s most famous and popular sprint car teams, call  (714) 397-3964, (714) 394-9292 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Moose Racing would like to thank the following marketing partners for making the 2021 racing season possible.  Huntington Beach Glass & Mirror, Phil & Eileen King, Lucas Oil Centers (Evansville, IN), and Specialized Powder Coating.  Also, the following companies who have provided valuable product support for the team’s racing effort.  CRC, Freeway Auto Supply, Keizer Wheels, Wilwood Disk Brakes, and FKK Indy.   

Moose Racing PR

Officials from the Bristol chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities (SCC) announced Thursday evening that it raised a significant total of $667,000 despite the challenges from a continuing pandemic that hampered some of the organization’s fundraising efforts throughout the year.

Grants from that total were distributed tonight during the annual Night of Smiles presented by Tele-Optics event to many rural-area child-focused agencies throughout Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. The special event was streamed live on the BMS Facebook page.

Once again this year, the Night of Smiles event had a different look and took place in a mobile fashion, as representatives from each of the agencies being honored will take a tour of the Pinnacle Speedway In Lights in their vehicles and then receive their checks in a socially-distanced manner from SCC-Bristol executive director Claudia Byrd as cars crossed the start/finish line of the Bristol Motor Speedway oval.

“Once again we have had some challenges with our fundraisers due to the ongoing pandemic, but just like last year, we were able to forge ahead despite the obstacles,” Byrd said. “While demand for assistance will always exceed our ability to assist no matter the circumstances, we're so thankful to everyone who has donated and volunteered throughout the last 25 years to help us raise nearly $19 million. We would not be able to do this without your love and support. There's no greater blessing than to be here at the Night of Smiles and help give away the money raised to area agencies that are going to help children in need in our community.”

Rise Up!, a Johnson City-based agency who works to inspire and prepare kids for the future, received the Jeff Byrd Grant. Presented in honor of the late general manager of Bristol Motor Speedway, the $50,000 award will go towards the organization's efforts to build the Jeff Byrd Movement Park on an adjoining property to provide the kids with opportunities for exercise and activities.

Night of Smiles presented by Tele-Optics is the culmination of a year of SCC fundraising events, including The Pinnacle Speedway in Lights, which opens for its milestone 25th season on Friday, Nov. 12 at 6 p.m.

Organizations that received funding from Bristol Motor Speedway's Chapter of Speedway Children's Charities during the Night of Smiles event includes:

Abuse Alternatives

American Red Cross of NE Tennessee

American Red Cross of SW Virginia

Appalachia Service Project

Arc of Washington County

Assistance and Resource Ministries

Barter Foundation

Boys & Girls Club of Central Appalachia

Boys & Girls Club of Elizabethton/Carter County

Boys & Girls Club of Greater Kingsport

Boys & Girls Club of Greeneville & Greene County

Boys & Girls Club of Johnson City/Washington County

Boys & Girls Club of Morristown

Boys & Girls Club of the Mountain Empire

Bristol Regional Speech & Hearing Center

Cap the Gap for Foster Care

Carter County Foster Care Association

CASA for Kids

CASA of Northeast Tennessee

Children’s Advocacy Center of the first Judicial District

Children’s Advocacy Center of Highlands Community Service
Child Advocacy Center of the 1st Judicial District
Child Advocacy Center of the 3rd Judicial District

Children’s Advocacy Center of Sullivan County

Christmas Box of Northeast Tennessee

Commonwealth Catholic Charities

Communities in Schools of Southwest Virginia

Community Help Center of Northeast Tennessee

Crossroads Medical Mission

Crumley House Brain Injury Rehab Center

Family Crisis Support Services

Family Promise of Greater Kingsport

Feeding America Southwest Virginia

First Book Greater Kingsport

Girls Incorporated of Bristol

Girls Incorporated of Johnson City/Washington County

Girls Incorporated of Kingsport

Girls on the Run of Northeast Tennessee

Greater Kingsport Family YMCA

Hands On! Discovery Center

Healing Hands Health Center

Holston United Methodist Home for Children

Hope House

Hope House of Scott County

Isaiah 117 House

Jeremiah School

Jericho Shriners

Johnson County Safe Haven

Literacy Council of Kingsport

LXI

Marine Toys for Tots

McClure River Valley Community Center

Morrison School

Morristown Hamblen Central Services

Mountain Kids Inc.

Mountain Region Speech and Hearing

Niswonger Children’s Hospital

Of One Accord Ministry

People Incorporated of Virginia

Reading Buddies

Ridin’ High Therapeutic Horse Program

Rise Up!

River’s Way Outdoor Adventure Center

Santa Pal

Southern Appalachian Ronald McDonald House

Southwest Virginia CAC/MEOC

St. Anthony Bread Food Pantry

Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office Auxiliary

SYNERGY Foundation

TASK: Taking Action for Special Kids

The Bread of Life Children’s Ministry

TLC Community Center

Unicoi Family YMCA

United Way of Southwest Virginia

Waiting to Hear

YMCA of Bristol

Young Life Bristol

Young Life Kingsport

Young Life Upper East Tennessee

YWCA of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia

Long hailed as the premier holiday display in the Appalachian Highlands Region, The Pinnacle Speedway in Lights powered by TVA spreads across a four-mile route illuminated by more than two million lights among 250 displays. A trip through the light show sends guests down historic Bristol Dragway and all throughout the property, culminating with a lap around the iconic Bristol Motor Speedway half-mile oval.

The Pinnacle Speedway in Lights runs through Saturday, Jan. 1. In addition to the $50 Fast Pass presented by Citi option which is available on select nights when lines get the longest, the event costs $20 for cars from Sunday through Thursday and $25 on Friday and Saturday nights. For larger groups, vans are $50 and buses are $125.  

For more information about the Pinnacle Speedway In Lights powered by TVA, please visit the BMS website.

BMS PR

The national points season has concluded, but one of the biggest DIRTcar UMP Modified events on the calendar still remains.

 

The eighth annual Emil & Dale Reutimann Memorial kicks off in one week’s time – Thu-Sat, Nov. 18-20 – at Volusia Speedway Park. The nation’s best UMP Modified drivers will flock to the half-mile oval to take part in a night of practice on Thursday, followed by two nights of racing on Friday and Saturday.

 

Drivers will Hot Lap/Qualify to get Friday’s program started, then be divided into four separate Showdown Features. These Showdowns will take a number of transfers into Saturday’s Feature, while everyone else will file into a Last Chance Showdown. Once Last Chance Showdowns are complete on Saturday night, Feature cars will take to the track for the 50-lap, $7,000-to-win finale, live on DIRTVision.

 

The event is run in memory of Emil Reutimann Jr., 56, father to Dale, 17, and crew member Gordon Stone, 16. Each were killed after a collision with a drunk driver, just south of Zephyrhills, FL, on Highway 301 while traveling to a race at Golden Gate Speedway in 1973.

 

When the race was founded in their remembrance in 2014, the depth of its reach and prestige in the DIRTcar UMP Modified world was only a fraction of where it stands today. The growing list of local, regional and national talent that attends every year has surprised even third-generation racing veteran David Reutimann.

 

“I never dreamed it could get this big,” he said of the event’s growing prestige. “It started off just as a local deal.”

 

Reutimann won the second and third editions of the event in 2015 and 2016, when it was held at East Bay Raceway Park in Tampa, FL. The race moved to Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala for the 2017 and 2018 seasons, and has now made its home at Volusia – right where Reutimann had always hoped it would.

 

“Out of all the dirt tracks that I’ve been to – and I’ve raced a lot of dirt for a lot of years – Volusia’s by far my favorite place,” Reutimann, of Sherrills Ford, NC, said. “I always wanted it to end up at Volusia. That was kinda my vision.”

 

Volusia is also a favorite to defending Reutimann Memorial winner Tyler Nicely. The track was covered with new dirt for the 2021 season, which suited him well for his victorious run on the second night of competition in the 50th DIRTcar Nationals in February.

 

“[DIRTcar Nationals] racetrack was perfect,” Nicely said. “It got slick every night we ran on it, so hopefully it’s like that and we can stay on top.”

 

He debuted a new Longhorn by Loenbro chassis in the event last year and made a statement win, holding off Justin Allgaier and Nick Hoffman to capture his first farm tractor trophy.

 

This year is more of the same for the driver from Owensboro, KY. He’ll take another new Longhorn with him to Barberville, looking to duplicate the success he found earlier this year at DIRTcar Nationals.

 

“We learned, just like when we went to Speedweeks, we just had a handful of races in on that Longhorn,” Nicely said. “We ran on the podium every night except for two, I think. I feel like we’ve learned more about the racecar and I’ve gotten better with the racecar.”

 

While Nicely, Hoffman and Allgaier bring the national talent, the local stars shine just as bright. Garret Stewart has won all but three points Features over the last two season en route to dominating consecutive track championships.

 

Although he enters the event as the local favorite, he has yet to reach Victory Lane in the track’s marquee events. Armed with an Elite Chassis, built by Hoffman – the three-time and defending DIRTcar national champion – Stewart’s feeling more confident than ever this season.

 

“I’m excited to see what we got because I feel like we’ve made gains since the last time we went to Volusia,” Stewart, of Leesburg, FL, said. “[Hoffman’s] helped me a little more this year than in years past. Hopefully that pays off.”

 

With pre-entries on the list including Hoffman, Nicely, Chris Arnold, Kenny Wallace and Justin Haley, Stewart knows he’s going to need to bring his A-game if he wants to beat them.

 

“We can’t have any mistakes the whole weekend,” Stewart said. “You’re going to have to put together Qualifying, Heat Race and a Feature. You can’t have any missteps, because those guys don’t make mistakes.”

 

$7,000, a unique custom trophy and a spot in the history books of one of Florida’s most prestigious dirt track races is at stake. Stewart will have home-track advantage and a legion of his local fanbase on his side as he chases what would be the biggest win of his career.

 

“Any big race at Volusia is awesome,” he said. “When you get national level guys, just to run well is exciting. But if we can win it, it would be huge for our program too.”

The on-track action begins with practice on Thursday, followed by racing on Friday and Saturday. If you can’t be at the track, stream every lap of Friday and Saturday live on DIRTVision presented by Drydene.

DIRTcar Series PR

NASCAR veteran Ryan Ellis, with longtime NASCAR sponsor Keen Parts/CorvetteParts.net has signed with Alpha Prime Racing for multiple NASCAR Xfinity Series events in 2022. While the schedule is still being finalized, Ellis is expected to compete in five races throughout the year.

Since his NASCAR debut in 2012, Ellis has become a journeyman racer, driving for nine different Truck Series teams, twelve Xfinity Series teams, and four NASCAR Cup Series teams with his biggest start coming in the 2016 Brickyard 400 for BK Racing.

In Volkswagen TDI Cup, Ellis was a star, with multiple wins and track records to his name. In NASCAR, the 31 year old California native has earned respect through his determination and willingness to drive for some of the sport’s most underfunded teams. When stuck without sponsorship for the 2016 season, Ellis became the PR Representative for Go Fas Racing & Matt DiBenedetto.

But in eighty-eight NASCAR races over nine seasons, Ellis has only one career top-15 finish.

A story relatable to Driver/GM Tommy Joe Martins.

“He doesn’t quit,” Martins said. “He’s a talented racecar driver. He’s just never found a home out here. He’s had to bounce around and just make it work. He’s willing to drive anything, but he’s never been in top-15 level equipment. We want to give him that chance.”

“I had over a hundred NASCAR starts before I got a top-10,” Martins continued. “I look at Ryan and what he’s done to stay around - driving for no money, driving for small teams. He’s really impressed me anytime I’ve ever raced with him. He’s a great addition, and he’s going to surprise some people.”

Ellis gives all the credit to his sponsors.

“I can’t reiterate enough how appreciative I am of Tom & TJ of CorvetteParts.net giving me a chance to compete with an extremely strong program at APR,” Ellis said. “The Keen’s support of my career means so much to me. We’ve been friends since meeting at GFR and it means so much that they continue to support my dream with their amazing family-owned business. The Keen’s and their brand are extremely well known and respected in and outside of the garage area. We want to continue to help driver sales so we can grow this partnership.”

CorvetteParts.net is a family-owned business owned by Tom and TJ Keen. They sell parts and accessories for Corvette-lovers of all generations. They have been loyal NASCAR sponsors and friends of many within the industry since 2011, supporting drivers of all levels since then.

TJ Keen shares her driver’s anticipation.

“We at Keen Parts/CorvetteParts.net are excited to be joining Alpha Prime Racing and Ryan Ellis in the Xfinity Series for a number of races in 2022,” Keen said. “We’re looking forward to continuing our relationship with Ryan and are really excited to be working with Tommy and his growing team.”

The relationship Ellis had with Martins, a fellow underfunded driver, helped foster the deal.

“Tommy and I have been good friends for many years now and this is the perfect time to begin working together,” Ellis said. “Martins Motorsports was a well-run, competitive, highly respected program from the ground up and I can’t wait to be a part of what they’re putting together at Alpha Prime Racing. It’s a big opportunity for me, the Keen’s, and all our other partners.”

Pending changes, Ellis’ first race is expected to be at Martinsville Speedway Apr. 8. Further races will be announced in the coming weeks.

APR PR

Winning race car driver Gus Dean and DLP Motorsports wanted to do something special to recognize Veteran’s Day in 2021.

And after thorough research of military-based charities and outlets, today the duo announced a donation of five-hundred dollars to Tulka, Oklahoma-based Folds of Honor.

Folds of Honor is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization that provides educational scholarships to the spouses and children of military members who have fallen or been disabled while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Their educational scholarships support private school tuition or tutoring in grades K-12, as well as post-secondary tuition (two-or four-year college | university, technical or trade school.

Since its inception in 2007, Folds of Honor has awarded over 29,000 scholarships totaling over $145 million in all 50 states. Among the students served, 41 percent are minorities. It is rated a four-star charity by Charity Navigator and Platinum on GuideStar.

It was founded by Lt. Col. Dan Rooney, the only-ever F-16 fighter pilot and PGA Professional, who is currently stationed at Eglin AFB, Florida as a member of the 301st Fighter Squadron.

Dean and DLP Motorsports utilized a recent race bonus to pledge their donation to Folds of Honor.

At Orange County (N.C.) Speedway late this summer, officials from the Carolina Pro Late Model Series offered Dean and his Mooresville, N.C.-based DLP Motorsports team a challenge.

If Dean and the team would relinquish their starting position at the front of the field, start last and come back and win the event – the series would offer them a bonus for Dean’s fourth consecutive victory in the series and conquering the feat.

Of course, racers being racers, challenge accepted.

In typical Dean fashion in 2021, he wowed the crowd with his cautiously-aggressive driving style and bolted through the field to pick up the victory in his No. 57 DLP Motorsports Chevrolet.

“Anyone that knows me understands how much the people that serve this country mean to me,” said Dean.

“We talked about it at the race that night if we were able to get to Victory Lane, this money would not go back in our pockets, we would instead donate it to a place where we feel would benefit from the contribution.

“We did our homework and decided last month that we wanted to make our donation to Folds of Honor. They are a great organization with a lasting impact and we’re proud to make this donation on Veterans Day.

“I personally want to thank all of those in the past, present and future for their service in the Armed Forces. Thank you will never be enough.”

David “Buggy” Pletcher, owner of DLP Motorsports stands proudly alongside his driver in support of Folds of Honor.

“It’s because of Gus that we are able to make this donation,” added Pletcher. “Everyone at DLP Motorsports works hard to put competitive race cars on the track, but it’s talented drivers like Gus Dean who get the job done.

“Gus did amazing things with extraordinarily little experience in these cars and when the challenge was offered to us, we immediately accepted – because Gus knew we could accomplish the task and make an impact to others beyond our DLP Motorsports circle.

“We are happy and proud to make this donation to Folds of Honor and I make the pledge that we will continue to work with Gus on different avenues that we can make further donations to Folds of Honor and hopefully other military charities in the future.”

For more on Gus Dean, please visit GusDean.com, like him on Facebook (Gus Dean Racing) and follow him on Twitter (@GusDean).

For more information or to donate in support of a Folds of Honor scholarship visit foldsofhonor.org.

Gus Dean PR

As the 2021 season comes to an end, NASCAR prepares for a return to Nashville from Nov. 30 through Dec. 2 to host its annual Champion’s Week celebration.

The NASCAR Awards held on Dec. 2 at the Music City Center will formally crown this season’s champions, as fellow drivers, industry luminaries and celebrities descend upon the heart of downtown Nashville for the first time in two years to celebrate a memorable 2021 season.

In addition to the Cup Series Champion, NASCAR will honor the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series champions in the largest Awards Show to date. In addition, the champions of the ARCA Menards Series, ARCA Menards Series East, ARCA Menards Series West, and NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, as well as the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series national champion, have been invited to the NASCAR national series events in Nashville to celebrate their titles.

In addition to the Awards, the streets of Nashville will once again host the “Burnouts on Broadway presented by DoorDash” on Wednesday, Dec. 1 from 6:30-8:00 p.m. CT, an event where all drivers will look to leave their mark – literally – on lower Broadway under the neon-lit streets.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to return to Nashville to celebrate the champions of our sport,” said Pete Jung, SVP, Chief Marketing Officer at NASCAR. “Although we weren’t able to celebrate in person in Nashville last year, we saw the city’s energy and passion for motorsports on full display when we came to Nashville Superspeedway earlier this year. Nashville welcomed us with open arms in 2019 and we’re looking forward to another unforgettable Champion’s Week in Music City.”

The formal postseason Awards is a tradition that stretches back to 1981, when the event was held in New York City. It relocated to Las Vegas in 2009 and then called Nashville its home for the first time in 2019.

For more information on Champion’s Week, including a more detailed schedule and more, please visit www.nascar.com/championsweek

NASCAR PR

David Gilliland Racing (DGR) announced today that long time crew chief Jerry Baxter will join the team to lead the No. 15 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) entry with driver Tanner Gray for the 2022 season. Baxter brings a wealth of knowledge to the young NCWTS team with over 35 years of experience in NASCAR.

The 2022 NCWTS season will mark Gray’s third full-time year, and first under the guidance of Baxter. Baxter returns to the NCWTS after spending the last two seasons as a crew chief in the Cup Series. In his NCWTS career, the California native has 16 wins, 59 top-five and 104 top-10 finishes, and 10 pole awards. Most recently in the NCWTS, Baxter guided Brett Moffitt to four wins in 2019. 

“Jerry’s passion and history with the Truck Series will be a great addition to DGR,” said David Gilliland, co-owner of David Gilliland Racing. “His experience will be able to provide Tanner with the tools he needs to be a successful driver.”  

Baxter’s experience in the NCWTS dates back to 1998 with driver Boris Said at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway. Said started from the second position and went on to win the event after leading 47 laps under Baxter’s tutelage. Throughout his NASCAR career, Baxter has called 84 Cup Series and 194 Xfinity Series races in addition to 186 NCWTS races. 

“I’m thrilled to be joining DGR and working with Tanner,” said Jerry Baxter, No. 15 crew chief. “Tanner is a great young man and he’s eager to perform well behind the wheel. I’m looking forward to working with him and helping him get to the next level.” 

Baxter’s first on-track activity with Gray is scheduled to be at the NCWTS manufacturer's test at Atlanta Motor Speedway on December 6.

“I can’t wait to work with Jerry,” said Tanner Gray. “He has a lot of experience across the sport and a proven track record in the Truck Series. I’m still learning week in and week out, so it will be nice to have consistency next season with a veteran voice in my ear. I’m excited to work together to get the No. 15 Ford Performance F-150 running up front where it belongs.” 

The opening 2022 NCWTS race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway will be televised live on FS1 at 7:30 p.m. ET on February 18.

DGR PR

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