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PepperJack Kennels – a professional retriever training company based in both Texas and Wisconsin – have reached a multi -year agreement with Tim Bryant of Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida.
PepperJack Kennels will work with Five Flags Speedway in several ways throughout the year and will start with branding of the “PepperJack Kennels Party Deck” in turn four, a premier location for all events at the speedway. An additional announcement regarding the partnership and its impact on a marquee race at Five Flags Speedway will be announced during the In The Groove podcast on Facebook live, Wednesday January 12th at 6:00pm Central Time.
“We spent some time on the party deck in December at the Snowball Derby and were able to utilize it very affectively in many ways for our partners, friends and family,” said Misty Melo owner of PepperJack Kennels.
“We are excited to partner with Tim and Pat Bryant! They are so good to work with and really care about their sponsors, fans, and teams. It was a really easy decision to partner with them and call Five Flags Speedway our home track,” Melo added.
The 2022 season at Five Flags Speedway includes the 55th annual Snowball Derby in December, four $10,000-to-win Blizzard Series/Southern Super Series Super Late Model races, the ARCA Menards Series in March, and much more.
“We couldn't be more excited to welcome Misty and Marty Melo and PepperJack Kennels into our family of partners for the coming years. The reputation they have earned in the dog training industry speaks volumes for who they are, and how they operate. Even better is how passionate they are for short track racing. Their expanded involvement at 5 Flags Speedway will be a benefit to all fans and competitors. The fun on the PepperJack Kennels Party Deck is about to begin,” Tim Bryant said.
Race fans can learn more about PepperJack Kennels, their services, and their world-class facilities in Woodville, Wisconsin and Ravenna, Texas by visiting www.pepperjackkennels.com and visit 5 Flags Speedway at www.5flagsspeedway.com
5 Flags Speedway PR
David Ragan Set to Pilot the No. 15 Rick Ware Racing Ford Mustang in Multi-Race Deal, Starting with The DAYTONA 500
NASCAR veteran, David Ragan is set to pilot to the No. 15 Rick Ware Racing (RWR) entry for multiple races in the NASCAR Cup Series for 2022, starting with the prestigious DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway.
Ragan, the Unadilla, Georgia native, has competed in the NASCAR Cup Series, driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, Roush Fenway Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing and Front Row Motorsports, before retiring from full-time competition in 2019. With over fifteen years in the sport, Ragan collected 4 wins, 34 Top-5's, 99 Top-10's and 6 Pole Awards, across the three national touring series.
"I am really excited to have David back behind the wheel of one of our Rick Ware Racing Ford's," commented team owner, Rick Ware. "David is a great asset to the RWR family. In 2020, RWR scored our first Top 5 in the DAYTONA 500 with Ragan behind the wheel, and I'm optimistic that through our new Ford Performance alliance, we could see that No. 15 leading the field to the checkered flag on February 20th."
“I am thrilled to be back in The DAYTONA 500 driving the new 2022 Ford Mustang for RWR,” said Ragan. “I have always loved racing at Daytona, and know that we will have a shot to lead laps and contend for the win this year. The DAYTONA 500 is a special race with the best drivers in the world, and I cant wait to hit the track.”
RWR will be announcing primary sponsors, and their paint schemes in the coming days.
The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season opener, The DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway is set for February 20, 2022. For more information on Rick Ware Racing, visit www.wareracing.com, or follow along on social media; Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.
Fans are sure to be feeling nothing but good vibes when singer/songwriter and Academy of Country Music award winner Chris Janson takes the stage for a electrifying pre-race concert ahead of the 63rd running of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 29.
Known for No. 1 hits including “Buy Me a Boat,” “Fix a Drink,” “Done,” and “Good Vibes,” the high-octane entertainer and multi-instrumentalist will bring a variety of fan favorites as well as new music from his forthcoming album.
“I can’t wait to perform in Charlotte at one of the biggest events in NASCAR. It’s going to be a great day filled with two things that I love: country music and NASCAR.”
The 60-minute concert will take place in the infield, preceding the speedway’s spectacular Memorial Day Weekend salute to the troops and the green flag for NASCAR’s toughest test of man and machine, the Coca-Cola 600. Fans can upgrade their race ticket to a Track Pass for stage-front access to the concert and a trackside view of all the pre-race festivities.
“The Coca-Cola 600 is the biggest Memorial Day Weekend party in the country, and what better way to kick things off than with one of country music’s biggest names,” said Charlotte Motor Speedway Executive Vice President and General Manager Greg Walter. “With Chris Janson’s spectacular pre-race concert, a rousing pre-race salute to the troops and one of NASCAR’s crown jewel events all on tap, this year’s Coca-Cola 600 should be on every fan’s bucket list.”
Tickets to the Coca-Cola 600 start at just $49 for adults. Kids 12 and under get in for just $10 with a paying adult. For tickets to all of Charlotte Motor Speedway’s events, including the 63rd running of the Coca-Cola 600, visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.
Keep track of all of Charlotte Motor Speedway’s events during its 60th anniversary season by following on Twitter and Instagram or become a Facebook fan. Keep up with all the latest news and information with the Charlotte Motor Speedway mobile app.
DAYTONA 500 Reserved Seating, RV Camping Sold Out - Many Opportunities Remain to be a Part of The Great American Race & DAYTONA Speedweeks Presented By AdventHealth
Just how excited are fans for the NASCAR Cup Series season-opening DAYTONA 500, the points-race debut of the new, anticipated ’Next Gen’ car? Daytona International Speedway announced today that the 64th running of the Great American Race (Feb. 20) has sold out of reserved fronstretch seating and RV camping, but there are still plenty of ways to experience the pageantry of the DAYTONA 500 in addition to all other events throughout Speedweeks Presented By AdventHeath.
A new DAYTONA 500 ticket package is being offered for just $145.00 per person that gives fans admission to the UNOH Fanzone plus access to the Luke Combs pre-race concert and driver introductions. In the UNOH Fanzone, families can peer into the garage of their favorite driver plus witness special driver and VIP appearances. A limited amount of infield is available for purchase for those taking advantage of this new package.
Fans can also take their DAYTONA experience to the next level with many fan hospitality options. There are still a variety of hospitality packages left in the Rolex 24 Lounge Suites and the all-new Harley J’s Experience (High Banks Suite with incredible view of the fronstretch). To see a complete list of DAYTONA 500 viewing options, log onto www.DAYTONA500.com.
“The fans have definitely spoken,” said Daytona International Speedway President Frank Kelleher. “We’re going to have a packed house for the 64th Annual DAYTONA 500, but we are happy to showcase a multitude of other opportunities for fans to be a part of the Great American Race, in addition to all of the other racing action that makes up Speedweeks Presented By AdventHealth.
While DAYTONA Speedweeks Presented by AdventHealth culminates with the 64th Annual DAYTONA 500, the week will feature six days of incredible on-track action, featuring practices, qualifying and a total of six races among four different series, allowing fans several possibilities to not only see the Next Gen car but a variety of some of the greatest drivers in the world.
Below is a full schedule of on-track activity during Speedweeks Presented by AdventHealth:
- Tuesday, Feb. 15: DAYTONA 500 Practices (5:05 p.m./6:35 p.m. ET).
- Wednesday, Feb. 16: DAYTONA 500 Qualifying Presented By Busch Light (8:05 p.m. ET).
- Thursday, Feb. 17: Bluegreen Vacations Duel At DAYTONA qualifying races (7:00 p.m. ET); NASCAR Camping World Truck Series practice (4:35 p.m. ET) & ARCA Menards Series practice (5:30 p.m. ET).
- Friday, Feb. 18: NextEra Energy 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race (7:30 p.m. ET); ARCA Menards (1:30 p.m. ET) and Camping World Truck Series qualifying (3:00 p.m. ET); NASCAR Cup Series practice (6:00 p.m. ET).
- Saturday, Feb. 19: Lucas Oil 200 Driven By General Tire ARCA Menards race (1:30 p.m. ET) and Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series event (5:00 p.m. ET); NASCAR Cup Series final practice (10:30 a.m. ET); NASCAR Xfinity Series qualifying (11:35 a.m. ET).
- Sunday, Feb. 20: DAYTONA 500, The Great American Race (2:30 p.m. ET).
** Schedule subject to change
With the start of the 2022 ARCA Menards Series season right around the corner, Mullins Racing is preparing for the pilgrimage to Daytona International Speedway for the annual ARCA Menards Series pre-race practice this Friday and Saturday.
The practice serves as an opportunity for teams and drivers to prepare for the Lucas Oil 200 driven by General Tire on Feb. 19, the first race on the series schedule. It also gives many drivers the chance to turn their first laps at Daytona International Speedway, either to get approved to compete or to simply gain experience.
For Mullins Racing owner and driver Willie Mullins, the pre-race practice is the ideal time to make sure his race car is buttoned up and ready for when the green flag waves on Feb. 19 to open the ARCA Menards Series season.
“We go down there and we work on the car to make sure it is the best car we can show up with in February,” said Mullins, who has one top-five and four top-10 finishes in ARCA competition at Daytona International Speedway. “It’s always good to make sure you unload off the trailer and make sure you don’t have any leaks or anything like that. You’re trying to make sure you find speed and you don’t have any vibrations.
“When we come back we only get a 45 minute practice for the race, so this is our time to make sure this thing is right.”
Mullins Racing is bringing a full squadron of drivers to take part in the annual Daytona ARCA pre-race practice, with six drivers set to split seat time between two Mullins Racing entries. Those drivers in addition to Mullins are Blake Lothian, Brayton Laster, Bradley Perez, Cole Bruce and Logan Clark.
Nineteen-year-old Lothian comes to Mullins Racing for the Daytona ARCA pre-race practice with a long list of accomplishments. The native of Wellesley, Mass., impressed during his karting career and was selected as a member of the NASCAR Driver for Diversity Youth Team in 2019 and ’20. In 2021 he made his late model stock car debut, earning his first victory in the class at North Carolina’s Hickory Motor Speedway.
Laster heads to Daytona with experience on dirt and asphalt. The 19-year-old from Greenwood, Ind., began racing go karts when he was eight and hasn’t slowed down since. During his brief career he’s raced against some of the top stars from the World of Outlaws Late Model Series and Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series. Last year he was ranked third in the Ultimate Heart of America Super Late Model Series standings.
Perez is well known in ARCA and NASCAR garages not only as a dedicated mechanic and tire specialist, but also as a racer. The 24-year-old native of Hollywood, Fla., has raced Spec Miatas and Legend cars and in 2021 made his ARCA Menards Series debut at New York’s Watkins Glen International.
Bruce is the son of Mullins Racing Car Chief Robert Bruce. The 17-year-old resident of Fredericksburg, Va., has been racing since the age of 8 and has captured multiple feature victories at Dominion Raceway in Thornburg, Va., including his first in a late model stock car last season.
Clark is another driver local to the Mullins Racing base in Fredericksburg, Va. The 17-year-old resident of Mechanicsville, Va., has raced regularly at Dominion Raceway the last two years, earning two wins in the limited late model class in 2020 before registering his first late model stock car victory last season.
“I wish people could have given me this kind of opportunity when I first got started,” said Mullins. “That’s why we’re putting a good car together to give these kids a good experience at Daytona. Hopefully one of them will sign back up with us to go racing in February.”
For more information on Mullins Racing, please visit mullinsracing.net, like them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mullinsracing and follow them on Twitter at @mullins_racing.
Mullins Racing PR
Team Penske announced today that it will field an entry in the 2022 World Endurance Championship (WEC), racing an ORECA 07-Gibson in the LMP2 class. Former IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship drivers Dane Cameron and Felipe Nasr will be joined by veteran sports car racer Emmanuel Collard for the upcoming season. The 2022 WEC season, which begins in March at Sebring International Raceway with the 1000 Miles of Sebring, offers the first opportunity for Team Penske to race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in more than 50 years.
The WEC effort for 2022 represents Team Penske’s first experience in the FIA Sportscar World Endurance Championship. The LMP2 program provides an opportunity for the team to get acclimated to the racing, the circuits and the rules of the international endurance series in advance of competing in the growing LMDh class for the 2023 WEC season.
“We look forward to learning as much as we can about the WEC process in 2022 as most of our competition has competed in this series for many years,” said Team Penske President Tim Cindric. “Much like the approach we took by running Road Atlanta in 2017 when we returned to sports car racing after an eight-year hiatus, we think the LMP2 class provides us a means of gaining valuable experience as we continue to build our program to compete full-time in the IMSA and WEC LMDh class.”
The WEC schedule will feature six international endurance rounds in 2022, beginning in the United States with the 1000 Miles of Sebring on Friday, March 18. The highlight of the series schedule includes the world’s most historic and prestigious sports car event – the 24 Hours of Le Mans – slated for June 11-12. It will mark the first time that Team Penske will compete at the legendary race since 1971 when Mark Donohue and David Hobbs raced for the team. The WEC schedule also includes visits to Spa-Francorchamps, Monza, Fuji and Bahrain in 2022.
“Outside of Sebring and Spa, racing at some of these historic tracks all around the world will be a new experience for both myself and the team,” said Cameron, who raced for Team Penske from 2018-2020, earning the IMSA DPi Driver Championship alongside teammate Juan Pablo Montoya in 2019 with a total of three wins and eight poles in the class. “We want to learn, but we also want to be competitive and race for class wins. This will also be a great opportunity to build our notebooks to be even better prepared for the future. I’m excited to race at these historic tracks against some great competition in WEC, and it’s going to be incredible to compete for Team Penske at Le Mans.”
A three-time IMSA Champion, Cameron won the GTD class title in 2014 and captured the Prototype crown in 2016 and 2019.
Nasr, who has also competed in both Formula 1 and Formula E, has established himself as one of the most successful drivers in IMSA sports car racing over the last several years. Producing wins in each of the last four seasons, Nasr has captured two IMSA Prototype class championships, including last season when he helped earn three victories and seven podium finishes in 10 races. Nasr also competed in the LMP2 class during the 2018 and 2021 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“Joining Team Penske in a great opportunity and I can’t wait to compete in WEC and return to Le Mans this year.” said Nasr, a native of Brazil. “I know we’ll learn a lot as a team as we develop our program and gain some great experience. I’m really excited to get to work as we begin to build momentum for the future.”
For Collard, the upcoming season represents a Team Penske homecoming. The experienced racer has competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans a total of 24 times in his career. He also piloted the Porsche RS Spyder for Team Penske in six races in the American Le Mans Series between 2006-2008, while achieving a P2 class win at Petit Le Mans in 2006 and an overall victory in the 12 Hours of Sebring in 2008. Collard is also a two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans class winner (GT in 2003, LMP2 in 2009).
Team Penske PR
Toyotas Run 1-2-3 On Night Two of 2021 Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals; Bryson Makes History With Sixth Place Run
Buddy Kofoid passed Kyle Larson on the high side in turn two on lap 25 and went on to win Tuesday night’s 30-lap Warren CAT Qualifying Night feature and advance to Saturday’s A Main feature event at the 36th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals with Larson placing second and Chris Windom coming home third.
It marked Kofoid’s first Chili Bowl preliminary night feature victory and his 26th national midget feature win since the start of 2020. Toyota-powered drivers have now won seven consecutive Chili Bowl qualifying night feature events.
Not far behind the top three, Kaylee Bryson made history with the best preliminary night showing ever by a woman with a sixth-place finish, eclipsing Harli White’s tenth in 2016. She is one of just three women to advance as far as Saturday’s B Main and can become the first woman ever to make a Saturday A Main feature by finishing seventh or above.
Overall, six Toyota drivers advanced to Tuesday’s A Main with each placing in the top-eight finishing positions with Thomas Meseraull finishing fifth and Jonathan Beason coming home in eighth. After the first two preliminary night qualifiers, three Toyota-powered drivers have advanced directly to Saturday’s A Main.
This year’s Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals features 395 entries - each fighting for one of the 24 openings in Saturday night’s “A Main” feature event. Qualifying continues for each of the next three nights.
Buddy Kofoid, Keith Kunz Motorsports Toyota: “I was trying to stay close to Kyle in traffic and you have to pick your way through. The opportunity never really came in traffic. I decided to roll the bottom and was able to gain a little bit. Eventually we just started running high through one and two and rolled the bottom in three and four. This win is huge. It’s one of the most fun races I’ve ever had and one of the toughest I’ve ever been a part of. It’s great to be locked in for Saturday.”
Chris Windom, CB Industries Toyota: “I feel our car is good and I think we’ll be there Saturday. We passed Kyle on the last lap, but then just left the door a little too open at the end and you can’t do that with Kyle.”
Kaylee Bryson, Keith Kunz Motorsports Toyota: “It feels pretty good. I’m out here racing with the best of the best. We’re starting pretty high up in the B feature on Saturday night and the goal is to make the feature and I think we can get it done. We went third to first in the heat race. This James Hodge Toyota Keith Kunz Motorsports car was ripping. They gave me the car I needed to do well tonight. We went from fifth to second in the qualifier and that started us third in the feature. Racing with the very best, it’s humbling me. I think these guys are teaching me something. I’m racing hard every lap and I can’t ask for anything more.”
Toyota Tuesday Results
A Main – 1st
A Main – 2nd
A Main – 3rd
A Main – 5th
A Main – 6th
A Main – 8th
B Main – 11th
B Main – 13th
B Main – 15th
Steven Snyder Jr.
B Main - DQ
C Main – 7th
Spire Motorsports announced today Built will return to the team’s family of partners in 2022 and serve as the primary sponsor aboard Corey LaJoie’s No. 7 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for the NASCAR Cup Series (NCS) season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway (DIS).
In addition to the “Great American Race,” Built will also be showcased as LaJoie’s primary partner in nine other races throughout the 2022 season, including:
- March 13 Phoenix Raceway
- April 9 Martinsville Speedway
- May 22 Texas Motor Speedway (NASCAR All Star Race)
- June 5 World Wide Technology Raceway
- July 3 Road America
- August 14 Richmond Raceway
- August 27 Daytona International Speedway
- September 4 Darlington Raceway
- October 23 Homestead-Miami Speedway
Built was named the Official Protein Bar of NASCAR when the two organizations announced a multi-year partnership in October 2021.
“Built is more excited than ever to continue our partnership and friendship with Corey LaJoie and Spire Motorsports,” said Nick Greer, CEO of Built. “There is something incredibly special about Corey and his ability to ‘stack pennies’ like no one else on or off the track. We are thrilled to stack those pennies together with Corey and we will find ourselves in victory lane soon. Built.com and its entire Built family feel so fortunate to be part of this great NASCAR community. It’s go time. What a great year this will be.”
The phrase “stacking pennies” has become a life and career philosophy for LaJoie. Despite being the son of two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series Champion Randy LaJoie, the third-generation racer has charted his own trajectory in the sport and champions small accomplishments that add up to the sum of a larger victory.
“I’m honored to welcome back my friends with Built.com for their third year in the sport,” said LaJoie. “It’s been a blast being a part of their creative marketing strategies to grow the program. The Built leadership team brings a ton of energy to Spire Motorsports as well as to NASCAR. 2022 is going to be an amazing season with them on and off the track.”
LaJoie finished ninth in last year’s Great American Race and earned a career-best sixth-place finish at The World Center of Racing in the 2019 Coke Zero Sugar 400. The Concord, N.C., native has logged 12 total starts at DIS on NASCAR’s senior circuit, including 10 on the traditional 2.5-mile superspeedway and two on the daunting 3.61-mile road course. Over those 10 superspeedway starts, LaJoie has led two laps, notching three top-10 and six top-20 finishes.
“Everyone at Spire Motorsports is eager to get the season underway,” said Spire Motorsports co-owner T.J. Puchyr. “Corey and the entire No. 7 team did an outstanding job last season. We’re exceptionally proud that Built recognized that success by adding more races to its 2022 plans. Corey is a smart, patient racer on superspeedways and knows how to follow a plan. That’s why he runs up front when it’s time to race for the win. He knows the craft well, so we know when we go to the Daytona 500, Corey gives us a chance to win on NASCAR’s biggest stage.”
The 64th running of the Daytona 500 will be televised live on FOX, Sunday, February 20 beginning at 3:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST). The first of 36 races on the 2022 NCS schedule will be broadcast live on the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Spire Motorsports PR
Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing, announced earlier this week that the 2022 season would be his last as a full-time driver in the NASCAR Cup Series. He held a Q&A session this afternoon to talk about that decision with members of the media.
ARIC ALMIROLA, No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang -- HOW LONG DID THIS DECISION TAKE AND WAS IT A PRETTY OBVIOUS ONE FOR YOU? “No, it was not a very obvious decision. I talked about this quite a bit yesterday after announcing it, but for the last several years I’ve thought about just when is the end. I’ve not thought about actually retiring in any of those years, but I have thought about, like, when will it end. And I’ve thought about it in the past. When I broke my back in 2017 at Kansas. That was my last year of my contract that year with Petty’s, and I thought that potentially could be the end, so I’ve had multiple opportunities to think about what will that look like when my career is over. Fortunately, and timing and God’s will and all the things that played out to give me the opportunities to prolong my career to this point, but, it’s hard to make that decision to walk away from something you love. I love to compete. I love to drive race cars. It’s financially very rewarding. All of those things. That’s hard to walk away from, but I’ve got a family too and I had to really consider that and as I watched my kids grow up and get older they want to get involved in their own activities. My son is really into team sports and my daughter into horseback riding and theater and dance and those things happen on the weekends. They might have practice during the week, but their performances and their games are on the weekends. I couldn’t keep going week in and week out chasing my dreams and watching them do their things through text message videos and Facetime. I just felt super guilty about it and my wife and I have talked a lot about it. We’ve prayed about it and we just feel like now is the right time. Like I said in my video that I put out, next year I’m gonna have a 10-year-old and a 9-year-old. I’ve got a short window to spend as much time as I possibly can with them before they have car keys and they’re asking me what time their curfew is, and it’s gonna feel like I’m punishing them to ask them to be home and just hang out and spend time with mom and dad. That weighed into my decision more than anything else is just that small window of opportunity that I have to be with my family while my kids are still young and they still want to be home and hang out because dad is still kind of cool right now.”
ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT NOT BEING AT DAYTONA TESTING AND BEING BEHIND COME THE 500? “No. I don’t think so. I think it’s important to be prepared and right now with the way the industry is and limited supply of cars and chassis and parts and components and all those things I think it’s more important to be prepared for the season and our organization thinks that as well.”
WHEN DID YOU INFORM SHR OF YOUR DECISION? “I talked to them about it over the holidays. I talked with Brett (Frood) and Zippy and I spoke with the people at Smithfield as well and just told them that I’ve talked about it with my wife and talked about it with my family and as excited as I am about 2022 when the checkered flag flies at Phoenix that will be it for me. I felt like it was important once I kind of came to the conclusion that this was gonna be it for me, I felt like it was important to get ahead of it with the race team and with Smithfield and with all of our corporate partners because I feel like it’s fair to them to have the longest runway possible to figure out what’s next, and to try and get their ducks in a row and try to plan accordingly. So, I would want that same respect if I was running a race team or an organization, and so I felt like they deserved that.”
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU? DO YOU WANT TO STAY IN MOTORSPORTS OR NASCAR BEHIND THE SCENES? “Yeah, I do. I do have interest in still being involved. I really don’t have an answer on what’s next. I know that’s crazy and a little bit scary, but I’m not gonna sit at home in my pajamas and I’m not gonna play golf every day. I am stepping away from full-time racing, but I’m only 38 years old I still feel like I have a lot left to do in life and I feel like I’m still plenty young to reinvent myself. All I’ve ever done is drive race cars. I became a professional race car driver at 19-years-old. I raced as a hobby before that, so I don’t have a Plan B. I’ve never had a Plan B and I don’t know what that looks like currently, but I do have a lot of interests and a lot of different things and I feel like, again, getting out in front of it early and announcing that this is gonna be my last year of full-time racing, I feel like that’s going to present a lot of opportunity for me to have real candid conversations with different people and different organizations on what opportunities might lie ahead for me post driving and racing. So, yeah, we’ll just have to wait-and-see, but I know that going 40 weeks a year and all the stresses and demands that come along with being a race car driver that is coming to an end for me.”
WOULD YOU CONSIDER ANY ONE-OFF OR PART-TIME SCHEDULE IN THE FUTURE? “Yeah, I don’t want to say that I’ll never race ever again. I’m not retiring from racing. I’m just retiring from full-time racing and, so, yeah, if there was an opportunity to go do something here and there, I will look at the opportunity, but, I’m not interested past 2022 of ever going on a full-time schedule again. I want to be around on the weekends. I want to go to the baseball park with my kids and I want to have a few of my son’s buddies come over and have a sleepover and I want to be grilling out by the pool while they have a pool party or whatever. All the things that I got to do as a kid because my parents were involved in my life. My parents made so many sacrifices to make sure that I had an awesome childhood and I played every sport that I could possibly play. I raced go-karts. I did so many things. I had so many opportunities because of my parents and my grandparents willingness to sacrifice their lives. They had normal jobs, but they were home on the weekends and I want that for my kids. I’ve been blessed beyond my wildest imagination to do what I’ve done over the last 11 years by Cup racing, but I’m ready to be a little bit more normal and I’m ready to be home with my family.”
IS THERE A PARTICULAR RACE OR ASPECT OF THE SPORT YOU ANTICIPATE YOU WILL MISS THE MOST? “Yeah, I already know what that is. I will miss strapping into the race car on pit road and the guys putting the window net up and me firing the engine up and rolling off pit road. There’s nothing that I’ve ever experienced that is as exciting as that. When you roll off pit road to start any race it is awesome. You feel like you’re a gladiator getting ready to go to battle and that feeling is not gonna be easily replaced, if at all. So, I think I will miss that – not think – I know I will miss that more than anything else, just that excitement of going out to compete and to go drive my race car against 39 of the other best stock car drivers in the world.”
IS THERE A PARTICULAR MOMENT THAT FORCED YOU TO THINK LONG AND HARD ABOUT WHAT DIRECTION YOU WERE GOING? “No, I think it’s a compilation of multiple decisions, especially revolving around the kids. For the last three or four years when looking at team sports for Alex, my son, and even looking at whatever hobbies my daughter has wanted to be involved in, when we looked at those we’ve had to weigh it out like, ‘What does that schedule look like? How many games are on what weekends? What does your practice schedule look like?’ And the reason we’ve had to look at those things is we’ve had to look and see at how it lines up with my schedule. We’ve had to tell my son, we’ve had to say, ‘That’s fine, you can play spring baseball, but if you play spring baseball you’re probably not gonna be able to go to Bristol. You can’t go to Talladega.’ You’re probably gonna miss these certain races that are favorites of theirs and favorites of our family, that we enjoy going to the racetrack together as a family. Our family would sacrifice that time together because they wanted to play an activity or sport and that I was still racing, and so year after year of looking at that and trying to juggle their schedules with what they’re trying to do with my schedule, and my schedule always wins, and it has to. It’s my job. It’s my livelihood. It’s the way I provide for our family, but it’s finally reached a point now to where it’s like, ‘All right, if we don’t let them start doing these things, it’s gonna be too late.’ They’re gonna be teenagers and they’re gonna be behind and they’re not gonna get those opportunities to all of a sudden start playing baseball in high school. So, after a lot of thought and a lot of year after year of making these conscious decisions of either delaying them from doing what they want to do or doing it and then just juggling the schedule, it just feels like the right time.”
WHAT HAS THEIR REACTION BEEN? “They’re excited. They really are, and I think they don’t really know. They’re still young and innocent and immature and don’t really have the world completely figured out, so they just know that by daddy retiring that means I’m gonna be home more. It means I’m not gonna be gone every single weekend and they’re excited about that. They’re happy to know that at the end of this year dad is gonna be around and more available.”
HAS THIS MADE YOU MORE REMINISCENT ABOUT FALLING IN LOVE WITH THE SPORT AND WHAT HAS THE TAMPA AREA MEANT TO YOU IN YOUR CAREER? “I’ll answer the first part first. Yes, it has made me reminiscent of just my love for the sport, my love for racing and I felt like I talked about it in the video that we put out on You Tube is that I fell in love with this sport sitting in the grandstands as a fan as I’m sure most every other race car driver did, right? And I watched my grandfather race and he was wildly successful on a local level, and I loved it. I loved being at the racetrack, and then I got the opportunity to get in a go-kart and feel what that felt like. When I was sitting in the grandstands I could just dream about it and imagine how awesome it must be to drive a race car and go as fast as you possibly can, but then I got to experience it and I fell even more in love with racing and just the pureness of it as a kid is so cool. Like, I’m doing it for a hobby. I’m doing it because I love it and there’s no real pressure at all. When I was go-kart racing the only goal was to do as best as I could and to learn and to get better each and every time I went back to the racetrack. I eventually was fortunate enough to take a hobby and turn it into a profession, so, yeah, I am super grateful for what racing has meant to me and where it’s taken me in my life, both professionally and personally and, yeah, I have reminisced quite a bit about it knowing that this year will be it.”
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ACCOMPLISHMENT TO THIS POINT? “I think, I know this is gonna sound crazy, but I think now, really thinking about just what it takes to be a race car driver and all those things, I am most proud of the relationships that I’ve made with corporate sponsors. Driving is one part of it and we all are really talented race car drivers. Sure, some are more talented than others. Would I have loved to have more success on the racetrack? Absolutely. I feel like I’ve done as good as I possibly can. I’ve had great opportunities and I’m excited to go and achieve some more things in 2022 before I call it quits, but the one thing that will last far beyond me driving a race car is the relationships, the people that I’ve had impact me in my life and that I’ve had an impact in their life. That is the thing that I’m most proud of. I know it sounds corny and I know people kind of say that all the time about retiring that they’ll miss the people more than anything else, but, for me, it’s true. I’ve built some incredible personal relationships with a lot of great people along my journey and I’m most happy about that.”
WHAT HAS IT MEANT TO BE ONE OF THE FIRST TO GO THROUGH THE NASCAR DIVERSITY PROGRAM AND HAVE THE KIND OF CAREER YOU’VE HAD? “That means a lot to me. I never really viewed it that way even from the beginning. When I first got the opportunity to go to Joe Gibbs Racing with Reggie White and that diversity program I viewed that as an opportunity that I was very grateful for, but I never viewed myself that way. I just viewed myself as a race car driver that just so happens to have a dad that’s from Cuba that allowed me to get that opportunity that I’m a first generation born Cuban-American, so I’ve never really thought of myself as a ‘diversity’ or ‘Cuban’ race car driver that needed to waive that flag or anything. I’ve just viewed myself as a race car driver and I happen to have olive complexion and dark hair and dark eyes and have a blood line from Cuba. So, yeah, I’m super happy and grateful for the opportunities that it has brought to me and I am extremely proud when I think about that of what my family has done. I don’t feel like it’s as much about what I’ve done, it’s way more about what my family has done. We’ve documented that a lot through one of the short story films that we did about me going back to Cuba and kind of tracing my roots when I was driving for Richard Petty Motorsports in that I am incredibly humbled to see where my family has come from. I mean, literally hundreds of miles, not hundreds but 100 miles of dirt road out in Pinar del Rio, Cuba with nothing. I mean, nothing nothing and to come to this country and completely start over. They gave all of their personal possessions back to the Cuban government in the sixties and started over. My grandparents came here with my dad and my uncle and when they arrived in Miami they got 100 bucks from the American government and a pat on the back to say good luck, and they have created a great life for themselves and for their family and that I get to reap those benefits because of what they’ve done. So, yeah, I never view it as something I’ve done. I view it way more as what they’ve done and just a lucky bystander.”
HOW DO YOU WANT PEOPLE LIKE US IN THE MEDIA TO REMEMBER YOU? “Just that I’m a genuine person. That character, and I’ve learned this from my family really, mostly, but character is really what it’s all about. Achieving success and making your way to the top by stepping on other people or trampling other people is not nearly as rewarding, I don’t think, versus making it the right way – making it on values and character and building relationships and being genuine relationships and being who you are. That is one thing that I’ve tried to do from day one. I’ve never tried to get ahead of myself and I’ve never tried to think that I’m better than I really am or to think that just because I make good money and I drive a race car for a living that I am above the guy cleaning the bathroom at Darlington or the journalist writing stories or any of those things. I’ve just always tried to be humble and tried to be genuine and I think I would much rather leave that legacy than to leave any other legacy about me as a race car driver if it meant that my character wasn’t what it was.”
HAVE EITHER OF YOUR KIDS EXPRESSED AN INTEREST IN RACING? “Yes, they both have and, for right now, it’s just dabbling. My son has a go-kart. We go and practice and run around, but he hasn’t really switched it on to take it seriously. He takes stick-and-ball sports way more seriously and he’s way more competitive at stick-and-ball sports, and then the same for my daughter. My daughter has gone out to the go-kart track and drove and made laps, but doesn’t really express an interest in wanting to do it competitively, but you stick her up on top of a horse or you put her out on a theater stage and she just lights up and she shines and she loves it and she puts in a lot of work. So, I think they’ve expressed interest in racing just because it’s what I do and our family that’s all they’ve ever really known to be honest, but, as they grow and they get older and they start to experience other things it’s fun to watch what really triggers their excitement.”
HOW MUCH WILL YOUR KIDS MISS BEING AT THE TRACK AND WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO HAVE YOUR KIDS SEE YOU WIN ONE MORE TIME? “I think it would be huge for my kids to get to participate in me going to victory lane one more time, especially because they weren’t at New Hampshire last year. We were getting ready to leave on vacation that next day when I got home from New Hampshire. We were going to Key West, so they didn’t go, so that way Janice could have all of their bags packed up, so that was hugely disappointing for them. Obviously, they were excited and jumping up and down on the couch that we won, but they didn’t get to be there to be a part of it. So, I would love for them to have that opportunity to go to victory lane one more time before we hang it up.”
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