Steven B. Wilson

Steven B. Wilson

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Penn National Gaming has invited their best players from across the country to experience the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway and 50 of those guests have been selected as the Grand Marshals for the race on Oct. 21.

Previously announced, actor Tom Payne from AMC’s The Walking Dead will wave the green flag to start the Hollywood Casino 400 as the honorary starter. Also taking part in pre-race activities is Kansas City Royals outfielder Alex Gordon, who was named the honorary pace car driver.

Kansas City, Kansas Police Department Master Detective Danon Vaughn will sing the national anthem, while the Overland Park Police Honor Guard will present the colors.

All Kansas Speedway tickets are currently on sale by calling 866.460.RACE (7223) or by logging onto www.kansasspeedway.com.

Kansas Speedway, a premier motorsports facility in the Midwest, hosts two NASCAR race weekends a year, in addition to hosting approximately 200 other events throughout the year. In the fall, the NASCAR playoffs return Oct. 20-21 with the NASCAR XFINITY Series Kansas Lottery 300 and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400. Also in the fall is the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards series finale. To purchase season or single day tickets, call 866.460.RACE (7223) or log onto www.kansaspeedway.com.  A limited number of camping spots are available by calling Kansas Speedway’s Ticket Office.

General parking is always free at Kansas Speedway and fans can bring in one 14x14x14-inch soft-sided cooler with their favorite food and beverages.

Fans can follow Kansas Speedway on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kansasspeedway, follow us on Twitter (@kansasspeedway), on Instagram (kansasspeedway) and Snapchat (kansasspeedway).

Kansas Speedway PR

NBC Sports will present Racing Roots: Featuring Bubba Wallace, a 30-minute special chronicling the rookie driver’s journey to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, this Saturday, October 13 at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Racing Roots will air immediately following NBC’s NASCAR Cup Series qualifying coverage from Talladega Superspeedway.

Hosted by auto racing icon and NASCAR on NBC analyst Kyle Petty, and NASCAR on NBC’s resident automobile aficionado Rutledge Wood, Racing Roots provides an in-depth look at how Bubba Wallace became the first African American since Hall of Famer Wendell Scott to win a NASCAR National Series race.

The driver of Richard Petty Motorsports’ No. 43 Chevy brings Wood and Petty back to his hometown of Concord, N.C., where his competitive love for speed and stock cars began. The episode features visits to Concord Speedway, where the 2018 Daytona 500 runner-up first raced Legends cars, and his current home with girlfriend Amanda Carter. Highlighted by interviews with Wallace’s mom Desiree, team owner Richard Petty, as well as friend and manager Kyle Hall, Saturday’s Racing Roots examines the young life of a NASCAR star that is already making history.

“It was an honor to be able to show Kyle and Rutledge a piece of my life,” said Wallace. “My family, friends, home and local race track are a huge part of the reason I am successful today. I hope this small glimpse inspires others to defy boundaries, think beyond their expectations, and do what they love.”

A preview of Saturday’s special is available here.

As part of NBC Sports Group’s comprehensive coverage of the 2018 NASCAR season, Racing Roots is an on-going series that dives deep into the hometown stories of NASCAR’s biggest stars. The 30-minute documentaries peal back the on-track exterior to showcase the hometowns, teachers, coaches and friends that helped shape today’s superstars.

NBC Sports PR

With only the final weeks of October remaining in the battle for the 2018 Kulwicki Cup Championship, both on-track and off-track activities are more important than ever in the four-year history of the Kulwicki Driver Development Program. It is apparent that what the seven KDDP drivers accomplish during the remaining days of the competition will determine the final point standings for 2018 and see one of those drivers claim the rich and prestigious Kulwicki Cup.

“I’ve personally always believed in the popular adage of first impressions making lasting impressions,” said KDDP Executive Director Tom Roberts. “There’s actual research that supports that axiom. But when it comes to our organization’s contest to determine our annual champion this year, it looks as if it will be the last impressions that prove to be first in importance.”

After the KDDP’s second voting period that ended on Sunday, Sept. 30, the point standings have tightened up to show that only 42 points now separate new leader Brett Yackey of Greeley, Colorado, from second-place Justin Mondeik of Gleason, Wisconsin. Porter's Lake, Nova Scotia’s Cole Butcher is running a solid third and could vault to the top after the third and final voting. Brittney Zamora, of Kennewick, Washington, has been the driver on the move since the last standings were released. The hard-charging 19-year-old racer has catapulted up to fourth and could be a serious challenger when the final points are tallied next month. Concord, North Carolina’s Justin Carroll, Derek Griffith of Hudson, New Hampshire and Seattle, Washington’s Molly Helmuth round out the seven-driver 2018 roster.

“Brett’s on-track progress over the last couple of months certainly made a huge impact on our voters,” said Roberts. “His breakthrough victory in Super Late Model competition at Colorado National Speedway on September 22 was a major topic of conversation among our board members. Justin continues to keep such an incredible personal schedule as a driver and team owner and that was certainly noted. Both Brett and Justin are remarkable when it comes to their community service activities. It’s almost like the two drivers are going tit for tat out there. We have so much respect for these young fellows as both are balancing their activities associated with our program with hitting the books in pursuit of their engineering degrees.

“Cole continues to be a proven winner and champion out on the track,” Roberts said. “He won four races this season on the tough Maritime Pro Stock Tour and wrapped up his second series championship with a solid third-place finish on September 15 at Scotia Speedworld. Cole was a participant in our 2017 program and has really beefed up his presence outside the race track. His stock is really escalating when our voters consider the total package he offers.

“Brittney’s star looks to be on a meteoric rise,” said Roberts. “Her huge victory in the September 23rd Neal Newberry 125 at the Wenatchee Valley (Washington) Super Oval and the Northwest Super Late Model series championship that came with it was quite an accomplishment. It affected our voters so positively that she moved all the way up to fourth in the standings. The Toyota Racing Development (TRD) folks are certainly paying attention to her and their continued support could see her advance from the Super Late Models to the next level.

“Justin Carroll, Derek Griffith and Molly Helmuth all have the opportunity to make their presence known during the next few weeks and advance in the final standings,” Roberts added.  “Molly recently relocated to North Carolina as she chases her motorsports dreams and it will be so interesting to see what her future holds.”

Here are the current point standings in the battle for the 2018 Kulwicki Cup Championship (as of 9/30/18):

            1st      -           Brett Yackey            -           993

            2nd     -           Justin Mondeik       -           951

            3rd      -           Cole Butcher           -           862

            4th      -           Brittney Zamora     -           574

            5th      -           Justin Carroll          -           563

            6th      -           Derek Griffith           -           458

            7th      -           Molly Helmuth         -           307

When the KDDP Advisory Board members reconvene early next month, they will cast their final votes which will award one of these 2018 drivers a check for $54,439 and the unique and prestigious Kulwicki Cup champion’s trophy that goes with it. They will join the illustrious list of KDDP champions which also includes Ty Majeski (inaugural 2015 season), Alex Prunty (2016) and Cody Haskins (2017).

The KDDP points system is based on a combination of judging input from members of the advisory board and the drivers’ on-track performance.  Voters are asked to rank the drivers from first to seventh in their job of representing the organization and points (from 70 for first to 10 for seventh) are awarded for those rankings.  Each voter is given 10 discretionary “bonus” points to award the drivers for “exceptional contributions” to the program.  Community engagement, program representation and social media activities account for much of those points. The remainder of the points come from actual racing statistics (based on each driver’s best 15 race finishes Race wins award 10 points, with 2nd-5th-place finishes getting 6 points, 6th-10th 4 points, 11th-15th 2 points and 15th-plus 1 point.

During the annual competition, two regular season rounds of judging points are averaged (however, bonus points continue to accrue) and added to a final round of voters’ judging points. The overall competition points (maximum 150 points for 15 wins) are applied and the driver with the largest points total will be the Kulwicki Cup Champion.

“The way that our points system is structured certainly adds to the drama and excitement in the competition for the Kulwicki Cup,” said Roberts. “When you consider that our first two votes are averaged and then the final vote is added, there could be significant movement in the final standings. Realizing that each voter’s input represents a potential 60-point swing from seventh to first, the final vote can amount to almost half of the total points earned. With that fact in mind, it’s shaping up to be a true nail-biter all the way down to the finish line.

“I want to thank all of our advisory board members for continuing to be able to display the utmost objectivity in the voting process,” Roberts said. “With our drivers competing all across North America, it is a huge challenge to always keep in consideration the car counts, strength of starting fields and other factors. We also want to acknowledge the importance of having our former champions, Ty Majeski, Alex Prunty and Cody Haskins participate in the judging process.

 “During this most recent voting period, there was quite a bit of discussion among the voting board members concerning the importance of making progress on the race track, winning races and claiming championships,” Roberts said. “Questions were raised about perhaps not awarding enough points for the on-track aspect of our competition. When it was pointed out that facet could be – and should be – considered in their overall ranking points, I feel it certainly made an impact in the latest standings.

“This round of voting really reflects what the true basis of our competition is,” said Roberts. “While community service is extremely important, there needs to be a good balance with what is also achieved on the track. It has always been our main objective to promote multi-level progress for all the drivers who participate in our program. We hope to see them improve and receive accolades for what they do on the race track, while also honing their personal skills with their community service activities and social media interaction.”

As of this period’s cutoff date (September 30), only Molly Helmuth was yet to compete in 15 races (since the official contest started on April 1). The current 2018 KDDP competition (on-track) points look like this: (points & number of races/wins/top-5s/top-10s)

            Brett Yackey            -           134 (29/11/22/25)

            Justin Mondeik       -           106 (40/4/21/32)

            Cole Butcher           -           96 (15/5/11/13)

            Justin Carroll          -           96 (20/4/10/17)

            Brittney Zamora     -           86 (20/2/9/17)

            Derek Griffith           -           82 (20/2/8/14)

            Molly Helmuth         -           40 (14/0/3/5)

“These last few weeks of competition for the Kulwicki Cup will be as interesting and compelling as it can possibly get,” said Roberts. “Our voters have made it clear that they are putting a premium on seeing measured on-track progress, while also continuing to reward the drivers for their activities outside the race track. With so few races remaining, I’m confident that our competitors will be digging extra deep to bring home those checkered flags. This group of drivers has been so creative and I can’t wait to see what they have planned for their off-track pursuits for the remainder of the month.

“One thing that I am certain of is just how much Alan Kulwicki would love, appreciate and respect our 2018 KDDP class,” Roberts concluded. “Each of these young men and women have displayed the ultimate class and sportsmanship in everything they do. Every race track and series promoter are thrilled to have them competing with them. All of their fan bases are on upward spirals. We’re so elated that Alan made it into the NASCAR Hall of Fame this year and will be officially inducted this winter. All of our drivers were vital players in the campaign to get Alan elected among the five inductees. They deserve major kudos for all the support they gave and energy they exerted into the successful effort.”

The 2018 season marks the fourth full year for the KDDP. The seven drivers receive a one-time stipend of $7,777 to cover operational expenses. The organization works to provide the drivers assistance in important aspects such as publicity, marketing, sponsorship development and industry networking during the season as they compete for the “grand prize.” The Kulwicki Cup winner will pick up an additional check worth seven times the initial award ($7,777 x 7 = $54,439) and a special unique trophy.

The Kulwicki Cup competition runs from April 1 through October 31. The final voting is scheduled for the first week in November, with the 2018 KDDP “Kulwicki Cup” Champion expected to be announced on November 15. The champion and all the other competitors will be honored at the organization’s annual banquet held in December at The Speedway Club at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

KPPD PR

Things have kicked into high gear at Talladega Superspeedway with the track’s pivotal doubleheader NASCAR Playoff weekend just days away. The lineup of pre-race dignitaries has been finalized for the 1000Bulbs.com 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event and the Fr8Auctions 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race. They include:

1000Bulbs.com 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Sunday, Oct. 14

Grand Marshal: Giving those famous words in motorsports – “Drivers, Start Your Engines” – will be Kim Pedersen, CEO and founder of 1000Bulbs.com. An award-winning lighting business, 1000Bulbs.com has more than 250 employees and offers everything from simple household light bulbs to cutting-edge specialty lighting. Pedersen launched 1000Bulbs.com in 1996, and the massive online presence continues to change the way the world buys lighting. He was recognized in June 2010 as Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young in the Dallas/Ft. Worth Region.

Honorary Starter and Invocation: Dr. Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of the 13,000-member First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, will wave the green flag to kick off the highly-anticipated “wildcard” Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event. Dr. Jeffress will also provide the invocation during pre-race ceremonies. He is a Fox News Contributor, author of over 24 books and hosts a daily nationwide radio program, Pathway to Victory. Dr. Jeffress has made more than 2,000 guest appearances on radio and television programs and regularly appears on various media outlets.

Fr8Auctions 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Saturday, Oct. 13

Grand Marshal: Marcus Barela, founder and owner of Fr8Auctions, will give the command to fire engines prior to the start of the Truck Series Playoff event. At the conclusion of the race, only six out of eight championship-eligible drivers will move on to the Round of 6.

National Anthem Performers

Sunday’s 1000Bulbs.com 500: The 313th United States Army Band from Birmingham, AL is scheduled to once again perform their instrumental version of the song of our country before the start of the 1000Bulbs.com 500. The band has been a staple at the track since 2014 and is made up of citizen-soldiers who train and perform as a group of Army musicians. In addition, the iconic Johnny Ray Semi Truck Drive By will take place during the Anthem as well as a military flyover (four F-18 jets) by The (VFA-213) World Famous Fighting BLACKLIONS of the United States Navy.

Saturday’s Fr8Auctions 250: Woodstock, AL native Tayllor Hanson, a 22-year-old graduate from Highlands College and Point University in Birmingham, will perform the National Anthem prior to the Fr8Auctions 250 on Saturday. Hanson is a voice and piano teacher as well as a preschool director in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa. She has also recorded three albums and is currently working on another.

Talladega Superspeedway’s playoff weekend kicks off on Friday, Oct. 12, with qualifying for the Fr8Auctions 250 at 4:35 p.m. CDT. Saturday’s slate includes the running of the Fr8Auctions 250 at noon CDT followed by Foodland/Food Giant Qualifying for the 1000Bulbs.com 500 at 3:35 p.m. CDT. Sunday will showcase some of the world’s best drivers dueling it out in the 1000Bulbs.com 500 at 1 p.m. CDT. In addition, Sunday ticket holders can enjoy access to the Saturday Night Infield Concert presented by Wind Creek Casino and Hotel, located in the famous infield, featuring country music artist Chris Janson.

For ticket information, fans can visit www.talladegasuperspeedway.com or call 855-518-RACE (7223).

TSS PR

Comcast announced today the finalists for the 2018 Comcast Community Champion of the Year Award, an annual award created to recognize the philanthropic efforts of individuals within the NASCAR industry. Comcast’s Xfinity brand has been the entitlement sponsor of the NASCAR Xfinity Series™ since 2015.

The 2018 finalists are:

  • Joey Logano, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series™ driver and founder of the Joey Logano Foundation
  • Ryan Newman, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series™ driver and co-founder of Rescue Ranch
  • Steve Page, President of Sonoma Raceway and board member of the Sonoma chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities

“One of Comcast’s most important pillars is re-investing in our local communities, and it has been incredible to see this come to life through our NASCAR partnership with the Comcast Community Champion of the Year Award,” said Matt Lederer, Executive Director of Partnership Marketing at Comcast. “This annual award, now in its fourth year, has given us a platform to highlight members of the NASCAR family who truly embody a generous and benevolent spirit.”

The 2018 Comcast Community Champion will be selected by a panel comprised of Comcast and NASCAR executives, as well as the Chip Ganassi Racing Pit Crew Department, which won the award in 2017 and will be represented by pit crew coach Mike Metcalf. Comcast will award $60,000 to the winner’s affiliated charity, and $30,000 on behalf of the two remaining finalists’ selected charities. The 2018 award winner will be announced on Thursday, Nov. 15 at W South Beach Hotel in Miami as part of NASCAR Championship Weekend.

In the first three years of the award, Comcast has donated more than $350,000 to nine different NASCAR-affiliated charities, furthering the impact of philanthropic efforts from NASCAR industry members. The Chip Ganassi Racing Pit Crew Department has been able to continue their efforts with the Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte, a home-away-from-home for families with children in nearby hospitals. The Department is well-known for visiting the House to assist in cleaning and cooking meals for families, as well as hosting a bicycle drive during the holidays to provide bikes of all different sizes for children staying at the House.

“Our team has been incredibly honored to receive this kind of support from Comcast through this award,” said Metcalf. “Thanks to their $60,000 donation, we have been able to take our commitment to the Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte to a new level. We are thrilled to be a part of the process of selecting the 2018 champion.”

Comcast has a long track record of community service, aiding in the advancement of local organizations, developing programs and partnerships, mobilizing resources to connect people and inspiring positive and substantive change. To learn more about the Comcast Community Champion of the Year Award, please visit ComcastCommunityChampion.com.

2018 Comcast Community Champion of the Year finalists:

Joey Logano (Charlotte, North Carolina) founded the Joey Logano Foundation in 2013 to support organizations across the United States that provide aid to children and young adults during times of crisis offering them a second chance. Since its inception, the Joey Logano Foundation has invested more than $2.7 million to hundreds of organizations through a multitude charitable programs. The Joey Logano Foundation created the JL Kids Crew to help provide opportunities for children with serious illnesses to spend time at the race track and be part of the No. 22 race team. Part of this special race package includes Logano gifting each JL Kids Crew recipient with their own matching fire suit and placing their names on his No. 22 Ford Fusion. Through JLF’s Grant Funding Program, the Foundation delivers grants to organizations dedicated to helping families that care for sick children, foster children and children of veterans. Over the course of the NASCAR season, the Joey Logano Foundation also has a program that brings Comfort Care Backpacks to multiple race markets. The Joey Logano Foundation has donated over 600 backpacks filled with essentials to underprivileged, foster and terminally ill children. The Joey Logano Foundation also uses its powerful platform during NASCAR’s Playoffs to aid 10 non-profit organizations in 10 different NASCAR markets, via their Chasing Second Chances program, an effort to help racing communities prosper.

Ryan Newman (Statesville, North Carolina) and wife Krissie founded Rescue Ranch, an 87-acre facility that works to promote respect for all animals, the earth and the environment through a wide variety of educational programs in the community, in 2012. The Ranch is home to more than 85 animals that receive around-the clock care, and serves as host to various school curriculum-based field trips, Scout badge programs, summer camps and more.  In an effort to increase programs available to children and adults with special needs, Ryan and Krissie raised $500,000 for an inclusive playground where kids of all abilities can play together. The Ranch also incorporated additional Special Needs Summer Camp weeks to create more opportunities for children to have a successful camp experience. Most recently, Rescue Ranch provided Search and Rescue aid to animals affected by Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas, and is continuing to gather and donate items needed for their care to the community. When he’s not on the track, Newman dedicates his time to maintaining the Rescue Ranch grounds to provide a safe environment for the animals, as well as a fun and educational atmosphere for the children who visit. Outside of Rescue Ranch, Newman plays an active role in supporting the NASCAR Green initiative, helping to plant trees with the Arbor Day Foundation in various regions across the country to honor fallen soldiers.

Steve Page (Sonoma, California), President of Sonoma Raceway, has shown long-standing commitment to the people of Northern California through his work with the Sonoma chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities, along with his efforts to assist in supporting and rebuilding areas affected by last October’s devastating wildfires. To help provide relief to those impacted by widespread fires, Page opened the gates of Sonoma Raceway to provide a refuge for those who were evacuated from their homes, hosting more than 100 campers and serving as a temporary evacuation center. Page, whose family was also evacuated, served meals and sorted donations to provide clothing and necessities to evacuees. He also helped mobilize the local community in thanking public safety personnel, spearheading a “Laps of Appreciation” fundraiser that generated more than $72,000 for the Sonoma County Resilience Fund and the Redwood Valley and Santa Rosa Community Recovery Fund. Throughout the raceway’s NASCAR race weekend in June, Page oversaw “Sonoma Rising,” an initiative designed to honor fire survivors, salute first responders, and lend support to the North Bay’s ongoing rebuilding efforts. As part of that effort, the raceway distributed more than 1,100 tickets to allow fire survivors to attend the 2018 race at no cost. Since 2001, Page and Speedway Children’s Charities have distributed more than $6 million to Sonoma County organizations that serve local youth. This year the Sonoma chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities established a ‘Fire Resilience Fund’ to distribute grants to youth-serving groups that have increased or created programs to support the amplified needs after the fires.

Comcast PR

For teenagers like Sam Heskew, video games are a part of life.

It was through video games such as Gran Turismo that Heskew, a junior at Martinsville High, developed an interest in racing.

“I’ve always been quite interested in motorsports,” Heskew said. “My parents don’t really care about cars or motorsports, so I’ve had to create my own interest.”

Heskew was among 30 or so technology-based students on hand at Martinsville Speedway to hear from William Byron about the motorsports simulator iRacing and how the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver is able to apply things he learns iRacing to racing on Sundays for Hendrick Motorsports.

“It was a lot of fun to see the things that these kids got to experience for the first time, whether that was iRacing or just understanding racing in general,” Byron said. “It was really fun for me to experience that with them and I got to race too, so that’s always good.”

After Byron, iRacing Sales and Marketing Director Otto Szebeni and the iRacing Ignite Series champion Zack Novak talked about what iRacing is and the technology used to develop the simulation, the students got to experience iRacing first hand.

“It was quite nerve racking to attempt to drive in these, because there’s no forgiveness,” Heskew said after climbing out of the SimSeats simulator. “They’re not 100-percent realistic, but the seats that they are using have force feedback both in the wheel and in the seat so you feel some of the bumps and the bruises that you would get from driving on the actual track.”

Elizabeth Russell, a STEM-based teacher at Magna Vista High School, said seeing the applications they talk about in class used in real life was a great takeaway for the students.

“The technology part of this is pretty awesome,” Russell said. “How they can take what it’s like, actually simulate, what it’s like to be in a car - that’s application of technology in real life skills. This is all an interface. It’s all technology and looking at a screen. Of course there’s a lot that goes into creating it, but these kids can do this at home.

“If they get the program, they’ve got the basics so they can get into iRacing. So this gives an opportunity to think about doing something else, just like William Byron did.”

While Byron may have been one of the first drivers to make it to the Cup level after getting his first taste of racing through iRacing, Heskew doesn’t think he will be the last.

“I feel like iRacing is a very good tool to use,” he said. “In motorsports, I think there has been a decline in karting. Karting used to be the way to start and move up in motorsports, but as karting goes away, I think iRacing is moving in perfectly to replace that need.

“I’d like to build my own simulator. Not nearly as complex in these, but to be able to move up the ranks in motorsports. I’d like to, at some point in life, not necessarily drive in NASCAR, but be able to drive in some motorsports series.”

While iRacing is a great tool, that Byron still uses to hone his skills, he said it can’t account for everything it will take to win the First Data 500 on October 28.

“I feel like on iRacing you are kind of getting used to the track and you’re in a different environment,” Byron said. “There’s not as much pressure. When you get out here and the race is on Sunday it will be a lot of pressure and a lot of eyes on you to perform. So, I think that’s probably the biggest difference.”

William Byron will return to Martinsville Speedway on October 28 for the First Data 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.

The race is the seventh race of the NASCAR Playoffs and the winning driver could be the first to claim a spot in the Championship Race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased by calling 877.RACE.TIX or online at www.martinsvillespeedway.com.

Martinsville Speedway PR

Hendrick Motorsports has named new crew chiefs for the organization’s Nos. 24 and 48 NASCAR Cup Series teams, effective at the conclusion of the 2018 racing season.

The assignments represent new roles for veterans Chad Knaus and Darian Grubb, along with the return to Hendrick Motorsports of Kevin Meendering. The responsibilities for 2019 include:

·  Knaus will become crew chief for William Byron and the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 team with its respective personnel. He currently leads the No. 48 team of Jimmie Johnson.

·  Meendering will become crew chief for Johnson and the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 team with its respective personnel. He is currently crew chief of NASCAR Xfinity Series playoff contender Elliott Sadler.

·  Grubb will be promoted to technical director, an executive leadership role supporting Hendrick Motorsports’ engineering and vehicle development resources. He is currently crew chief of the No. 24 team with Byron.

The 47-year-old Knaus will complete his 17th season as crew chief for Johnson and the No. 48 team, representing the longest-running crew chief-driver relationship in NASCAR. The pair has won a record-tying seven NASCAR Cup championships together and this season competed in the series playoffs for a record 15th time.

Knaus will return to the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team he originally joined 25 years ago. From 1993 to 1998, the Rockford, Illinois, native assumed a variety of duties under the direction of crew chief and mentor Ray Evernham. He oversaw body development and served as a tire changer for the No. 24 team, proving to be an integral part of driver Jeff Gordon’s 1995 and 1997 Cup titles.

Meendering, 37, oversees Sadler’s team for Hendrick Motorsports affiliate JR Motorsports. In three seasons as an Xfinity Series crew chief, the Grand Rapids, Michigan, native has led the veteran driver to three wins, 38 top-five finishes, 75 top-10s and the 2017 regular season title.

Before joining JRM, Meendering spent 16 years at Hendrick Motorsports beginning with a high-school internship in the chassis department. In 2008, he was named assistant engineer for the No. 24 team with Gordon and in 2011 became lead engineer for the No. 88 team of Dale Earnhardt Jr. He holds a mechanical engineering degree from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Grubb, 43, will finish the season as crew chief for the No. 24 team with Byron, who leads the 2018 Cup Series rookie of the year standings. The Floyd, Virginia, native served in a variety of technical roles with Hendrick Motorsports from 2003-2008, including race engineer, engineering manager and crew chief.

After stints at Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing, where he won a Cup title as crew chief for Tony Stewart, Grubb returned to Hendrick Motorsports in January 2016 as vehicle production director. He was promoted to director of competition systems in August 2017 before being named crew chief of the No. 24 team. Grubb holds a mechanical engineering degree from Virginia Tech.

Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports:

On Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson: “Chad and Jimmie will go down as one of the greatest combinations in sports history. They defied the odds by performing at a championship level for longer than anyone could’ve possibly imagined. What they’ve accomplished together has been absolutely remarkable and will be celebrated for generations. This has been an incredible, storybook run.”

On the Knaus-Johnson decision: “It’s no secret that Chad and Jimmie have experienced their ups and downs over the years. They’re fierce competitors, great friends and have immense respect for one another. They also fight like brothers. All three of us agree it’s finally time for new challenges and that a change will benefit them and the organization.”

On Kevin Meendering: “Over the last couple of years, he’s been one of the most sought-after talents in the garage. Kevin is an impressive person who came up in our organization and will hit the ground running on day one. We already know how well he works with our people and that he’s a respected, forward-thinking crew chief. Having worked with a veteran driver like Elliott Sadler for three years is extremely valuable experience. He’s the right fit for Jimmie at the right time. With an established No. 48 team behind them, I believe they will perform at a winning level next season and chase that eighth championship.”

On Darian Grubb: “Darian has established himself as a respected leader in our company, and we’ve seen him thrive in an executive role. We’ve identified opportunities for improvement, and we know having him step up to technical director will help move us forward in those areas. He’s a champion who brings a wealth of knowledge that will continue to benefit us.”

On pairing William Byron and Chad Knaus: “You can’t quantify how much Chad’s leadership and championship experience will benefit William, who is a special talent. The two of them are a great match, and I’m excited to see what they can do together. Chad has the Rainbow Warriors pedigree and truly appreciates the history of the No. 24. I’ve asked him to build another winner and given him the green light to put his stamp on the team and do it his way.”

On today’s announcement: “We believe these decisions will provide us with a tremendous opportunity for success in the future. As an organization, we are here to win races and compete for championships. Everything we do comes down to putting our people in the best possible positions to further that objective. Winning is what it’s all about.”

Hendrick Motorsports PR

With his second-place finish in Saturday night's Shore Lunch 200 at Lucas Oil Raceway, Sheldon Creed (No. 28 United Rentals Toyota) locked up the 2018 ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards Sioux Chief Short Track Challenge championship. The Alpine, California, native, edged MDM Motorsports teammates Zane Smith (No. 41 LaPaz Margarita Mix/ICON Vehicle Dynamics Toyota) and Chase Purdy (No. 8 Bama Buggies Toyota) by 35 points and 60 points, respectively.
 
Creed's results on short tracks have been impressive, both for his level of performance and his consistency. He scored one short track win, at Iowa Speedway, along with second-place finishes at Nashville, Springfield, and Lucas Oil Raceway. All told, he recorded seven top-five finishes and nine top-ten finishes in the eleven races that make up with Sioux Chief Short Track Challenge. His worst finish, which per program rules is discarded in the final points tally, was an 18th-place finish at Toledo.
 
"We had good long run speed tonight and the pit crew did a great job on the last stop," Creed said following his second-place finish at Lucas Oil Raceway, which clinched the SCSTC. "We went out and raced the 8 (Purdy), but we didn't have anything for the 15 (Eckes) tonight. This wraps up the short track stuff for the year, and I think we learned a lot. I got a lot better and the pit crew got a lot better. Now we go on to Kansas and try to lock up the overall championship."
 
Creed's consistency was key to defeating his MDM Motorsports teammate Smith, who earned two short track wins on the season, at Nashville and Toledo. Smith, who finished sixth at Lucas Oil Raceway on Saturday night, ended his short track campaign with seven top-five finishes and eight top-ten finishes. While his worst finish, like Creed, was an 18th-place result at Salem, he also had a 17th-place finish at Springfield, which was a part of his 35-point deficit to Creed at the finish.
 
A third MDM Motorsports teammate, Chase Purdy (No. 8 Bama Buggies Toyota) finished third in the final Sioux Chief Short Track Challenge standings, just 60 points out of the lead. Purdy also had a worst finish of 18th, at Springfield, which was discounted in the final points tally. His downfall, if you could call it that, on the short tracks was a pair of late-season eighth-place runs at Berlin and DuQuoin that cost him ground against Creed and Smith.
 
Christian Eckes (No. 15 JBL Audio Toyota) finished fourth in the Sioux Chief Short Track Challenge standings driving for Venturini Motorsports. Eckes won three short track events in 2018, at Salem, Springfield, and Lucas Oil Raceway, but only made ten short track starts, meaning he did not get to discard his worst short track finish of the season, which was a 21st-place run at Toledo. 
 
Joe Graf, Jr. (No. 77 Big Tine Ford) finished fifth in the final Sioux Chief Short Track Challenge standings. Graf, driving for Chad Bryant Racing, had four top-five finishes on short tracks, including his first career ARCA Racing Series win at Berlin in August. 
 
Creed joins inaugural winner Kyle Weatherman, 2016 series champion Chase Briscoe, and defending series champion Austin Theriault as Sioux Chief Short Track challenge champions. Nicknamed "The Show Stopper," Creed will try to join Briscoe and Theriault when he seeks to clinch the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards national championship at Kansas Speedway. Creed leads Smith by 425 points heading into the season finale, and only needs to start the Kansas ARCA 150 to become the 2018 series champion.
 
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Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), heads to Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway for Sunday’s 1000Bulbs.com 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race with breathing room in the point standings to make a calculated risk and go for the win.

 

Harvick kicked off the Round of 12 of this year’s Cup Series playoffs on “The Monster Mile” at Dover (Del.) International Speedway last weekend with a dominant performance that included two stage wins, 286 laps led, and the points lead after his sixth-place finish.

 

The No. 4 Jimmy John’s team now has a 68-point lead for the final transfer position to the next round with two races remaining in the Round of 12. The most points a driver can score in a single race is 60, which means Harvick has breathing room to go for stage wins and the race win this weekend.

 

The 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion’s lone Cup Series win at Talladega came in April 2010, when he started fourth and beat runner-up Jamie McMurray by .011 of a second – one of the closest finishes in series history.

 

While Harvick has just one win at Talladega, it has also proven to be a challenge for the team in recent years. He has scored one top-five finish, five top-10s and led 58 laps in his last nine races there since joining SHR.

 

The good news for Harvick and the No. 4 team is that their most recent trip to the 2.66-mile superspeedway last April was their most successful as a group. The team scored the Busch Pole Award with a lap of 49.247 seconds at 194.448 mph, led 12 laps and finished fourth.

 

In addition to his solid performance at Talladega in April, Harvick and the No. 4 team continue to be the class of the field during the 2018 NASCAR Cup Series campaign, leading the series with seven wins, 20 top-five finishes, 25 top-10s, and 1,560 laps led. They also rank second with an 8.6 average finish and are tied for third with three Busch Pole Awards.

 

A win at Talladega would mean he automatically qualifies for the Round of 8, but additional stage wins and race wins mean extra playoff points as he progresses through the playoffs. In addition to his strong performance at Talladega in April, Harvick also performed well at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City earlier this year, the site of next week’s final race in the Round of 12, when he won from the Busch Pole position and led 79 laps.

 

For the No. 4 team, the focus this weekend is on starting up front, leading laps, winning stages and winning the race – but the big-picture goal remains advancing to the next round of the Cup Series playoffs and winning a second championship. The quickest way to reach that goal is to win this weekend at Talladega.

 

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Aric Almirola and the No. 10 Smithfield Bacon for Life Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) continue on to Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway for the second race in the Round of 12 of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. Almirola enters the weekend coming off of a 13th-place finish at Dover (Del.) International Speedway, where he led 64 laps and was leading until a late-race restart shuffled him back.
 

It’s fitting that Almirola will pilot a bacon-themed Smithfield Ford Fusion this weekend. Talladega is a fan favorite when it comes to camping in its infield on NASCAR weekends, and what could be more synonymous with camping than bacon? The special paint scheme coincides with Smithfield’s Bacon for Life promotion. Yes, it’s possible to win bacon for life. To enter the sweepstakes, find specially marked packages of Smithfield bacon in stores and enter the unique code provided in the package by visiting Smithfield.com/BaconForLife. More than 1,000 runners-up will be awarded select bacon merchandise during the sweepstakes, which runs until Dec. 31.
 

Almirola’s bacon-themed Ford Fusion will hit the track for the first time Saturday morning for the weekend’s only practice session. While Talladega is a wild-card race in the playoffs given its high-speed, pack-style racing, earning maximum stage points during the race will be key for the 34-year-old Almirola in order to advance to the Round of 8 in the playoffs. The final race in the current playoff round takes place next weekend at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.
 

In Almirola’s last four starts at the 2.66-mile Talladega oval, he’s earned two top-five finishes and four top-10s. In his 17 Cup Series starts there, an accident has ended Almirola’s day prematurely only once. In the typically accident-mired event, he’s led a total of 15 laps and has an average finish of 17.2. Almirola’s one career Cup Series victory was captured in 2014 at Talladega’s sister track, Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
 

The Tampa native has already found his way to victory lane in his career at the Alabama track. In 2017, Almirola led 13 laps in the Xfinity Series event before going on to capture the victory there while piloting the No. 98 Ford for Biagi-DenBeste Racing.
 

Almirola heads into Sunday’s race ninth in the standings with 3,033 points, 10 points outside the Round of 8 cutoff. This is the furthest Almirola has ever advanced in the playoffs during his seven-year Cup Series career. All four SHR entries are competing in the Round of 12 this season, making up 33.3 percent of the remaining playoff field.
 

With the season winding down, fans can still enter for their chance to win Smithfield’s Smoke Machine Mustang designed by team co-owner Tony Stewart with the help of drifting champion Vaughn Gittin Jr. They helped create a one-of-a-kind Ford Mustang RTR Spec 3 that will be given away to one lucky fan. Fans can register for their chance to win the suped-up Mustang and a trip to November’s Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead by visiting SmithfieldRacing.com, or by texting SMOKE to 82257.
 

Talladega is the 28th points-paying event during which the Smithfield livery has adorned Almirola’s No. 10 Ford Fusion. Smithfield, a brand of Smithfield Foods, which is based approximately five hours northeast of SHR headquarters in Smithfield, Virginia, is in its seventh season with Almirola and its first with SHR. Founded in 1936, Smithfield is a leading provider of high-quality pork products, with a vast product portfolio including smoked meats, hams, bacon, sausage, ribs, and a wide variety of fresh pork cuts.
 

Ford had shown strength at restrictor-plate tracks with 17 wins in the last 31 events at Daytona and Talladega. In the Cup Series, Ford has captured nine wins in the last 12 events at Talladega.
 

Through the first 30 races this season, Almirola has an average start of 17.2 and an average finish of 13.9 with two top-five finishes and 12 top-10s. He’s also led 180 laps this season, already a career best with six races remaining.

 

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