Brett Winningham

Brett Winningham

Brett has been following the sport of NASCAR since the beginning of the 2006 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. Since Brett was 13, he has had a passion of chasing a job in sports that not many get the opportunity of doing. He has been in the NASCAR media since the middle of the 2010 season. Since then, he has been a part of many racing podcast shows to improve his talents. You can find him on twitter @NASCAR_Brett.

All three of NASCAR’s National Series returned to action at Daytona International Speedway over the weekend. The events, at the 2.5-mile oval in Daytona Beach, FL., provided exciting action on-track all weekend long.

NASCAR released the penalty report following Speedweeks at Daytona on Wednesday afternoon. The only infraction listed occurred in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series garage with driver Ben Rhodes.

Crew chief Eddie Troconis, leading the No. 41 Ford F-150 team driven by Ben Rhodes, has been fined $5,000 and suspended from the next Camping World Truck Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway for violating section 20.17.3.2.2.2 (Post-Race Rear Body Inspection Heights Note: Post-Race height measurements were outside NASCAR allowed tolerances.) The team will also lose 10 driver and owner points as a result of the L1 penalty.  

On Saturday, in the NASCAR XFINITY Series garage, two teams had crew members ejected ahead of the Power Shares QQQ 300. The No. 74 Dodge driven by Mike Harmon failed four times going through NASCAR’s new Optical Scanning Station during pre-qualifying inspection. Austin Dillon’s No. 3 Chevrolet was found with a rear suspension violation also discovered during pre-qualifying inspection. The crew chief of the No. 74 Dodge, Robert Scott, and No. 3 crew chief Nicholas Harrison along with car chief Michael Scearce, were each ejected ahead of the 300-mile event.

Since these violations were found ahead of the race, and not afterwards, neither NASCAR XFINITY Series teams will face suspensions this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

There were no infractions discovered over the weekend in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series garage.

Ron Devine, the owner of BK Racing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series garage, stopped by The Pit Stop on Tuesday evening to discuss their situation surrounding the Daytona 500 and their future going forward. The small team, who ran full-time in 2017 with seven different drivers across four different car numbers, plan to continue their program all the way through 2018.

The team had a small presence in the opening weekend of Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway during practice and qualifying. The No. 23 Toyota of Gray Gaulding, the only BK Racing entry in the Daytona 500 this year, posted only one lap on Saturday during the second practice session and was scheduled to go out first in qualifying on Sunday.

“It was a little bit frustrating, but, you know, things happen,” Gaulding told reporters at Daytona 500 Media Day. “BK Racing and myself, it’s not really that big of a deal because I’ve fought adversity my entire career. It’s just another bump in the road and you just gotta keep pushing no matter what is thrown your way. I’ve had many curve balls thrown my way in my career and I just gotta keep my head forward and be positive. All I’m focused on is tomorrow’s Duel.”

When Daytona 500 qualifying came on Sunday afternoon, the No. 23 Toyota ran into a hiccup while going through pre-qualifying inspection. The car passed all of the stations seamlessly with the exception of the engine portion. Devine explained the issue surrounding that situation on The Pit Stop.

“What it came down to, putting the car on the track to run a qualifying lap, I don’t think we would’ve set it on the pole,” said Devine on The Pit Stop. “We couldn’t get through the engine piece. So to say we were having some issues with our motor suppliers is such an understatement but, we managed to get through the Hawkeye, the car was ready to go, it was presented, and it’s been approved all through the other stations, and it came down to basically the motor.”

As a result, the No. 23 Toyota did not post a time in qualifying on Sunday and will start last in the second Can-Am Duel 150 on Thursday. Devine later stated that they hope to have the engine issue resolved ahead of their Duel 150.

“Hopefully we’ll have that worked out when we get there Thursday so that we can run it in the Duels,” Devine later said. “That’s what we’re focused on right now. NASCAR was great to work with and accommodating. It was a shame that we were the only car that didn’t get through it. And I’m tellin ya, it’s a tough system to get through. I just think it speaks volumes to the effort these teams had to put in this through winter to get through tech. It’s new to all of us and we’re learning it. I think we did a really good job with that. Just a shame we got hung up with this motor issue. But, employees, again, really rallied and came through and did a nice job with it.”

Despite having to start last in the second Duel 150, Devine and the No. 23 team isn’t worried. Daytona, like its sister track Talladega in Alabama, is a track where a driver can quickly gain or lose positions and serves as an equalizer for the small teams. They feel good coming into their Duel 150 because they feel like they can hang with the field.

“If there’s one race you can start last in and not worry about it, it’s the Duel’s for sure, and even the 500 with it being a plate race. Our cars are good in the wind tunnel and we feel like we can hang there with the pack and be in a position to have a great finish. And you never know with a plate race. We’re not concerned where we start. Yes. You do have to go through a certain amount of things to make the field and do all that. We gotta make sure we do that and that’s what we’re focused on.”

The No. 23 team with Gray Gaulding behind the wheel is a chartered team and is locked into the Daytona 500 and all races remaining in 2018. And even if they weren’t a chartered team, the Daytona 500 entry list, featuring 40 cars, means that nobody will fail to make the prestigious 500-mile stock car event.

In the past it wasn’t uncommon for smaller operations struggling for funding to start and park. The method, which is frowned upon by race fans and the sanctioning body, is where a team will run five to six laps before taking the car to the garage for the day. Some drivers have successfully used this method to get their name out there before landing a better funded ride. Devine declines to start and park because they’re at the track to race.

“I’ve never been a start and park car. You know, to see some of the stuff flying around about start and park -- it just amazes me,” said the owner. “We’ve never done that. In seven years of history, and you know, we’ve ran four cars in the Daytona 500 a couple of years ago. We’re a race team. We wanna race. We went there to race and we’re ready to race. And we’re gonna race.”

With Gaulding behind the wheel for the Daytona 500, it’s still unclear which drivers will be behind the wheel of that ride or other rides for the remainder of the year. Though Devine was very clear on where his relationship with young driver Gray Gaulding currently stands.

“Gray is now going into his second year. He’s another year older and he’s got a lot more experience. He was pretty good when he was out there, Devine said about the young driver. “He actually did a nice job with us with the car. He didn’t tear it up like everybody thought he was gonna and he was fast. He’s got a pretty good head on his shoulders and learns quickly in certain situations. I think from a sponsorship perspective, you’d love working with him. I like him. He’s a wonderful young man. The idea of getting all the economics together to keep him in the car is something that we’re hopeful as we’ve had a pretty good relationship in the past. We had some issues along the way, but in general, I think you could see that we’re back together.”

“I go into these races to let it all hang out. I’m really excited about, not just Daytona, but rest of the season with BK Racing,” Gaulding continued. “That is the plan for me to stay in the seat, which I’m excited about. As much as the driver wants to go run for the biggest team, the Hendrick’s, the Gibb’s, etc, you gotta start somewhere. I’m 20-years old, I’m young, I’m hungry, and when I do get that call one day, I will have to go back and thank people like Ron Devine and BK Racing. All those people who gave me opportunities before that big ride.”

Gaulding competed in 18 of the 36 races for BK Racing in the No. 23 & 83 Toyota throughout 2017. His best finish with the team came in October at Talladega Superspeedway with a ninth-place finish while driving the No. 83 Toyota Camry.

The No. 23 car did show up at Daytona International Speedway without a sponsor on Saturday. However, on Tuesday afternoon, two days before the Duel 150 races at Daytona, BK Racing announced a sponsorship with Earthwater and The Country Network for the ‘Great American Race’.

According to Bob Pockrass, leading up to the weekend before practice events started at Daytona, BK Racing is under a temporary restraining order and cannot sell its assets or charter while under the order. Pockrass also reported that there will be a court hearing on Thursday and could hand the charter over to the bank. Pockrass also said on Twitter that it is unclear on what the process by NASCAR will be if that sort of thing happens. Devine says that he and the team are working on getting these internal issues resolved while also improving their performance on the track and making themselves better as a whole.

“I’ve said a number of times. We’re just not good at getting through the winter,” Devine described. “We haven’t figured that out yet. I just don’t know how to do it. We’ve tried everything to get through it, and we always show up, but it’s usually ugly. And this year it was particularly ugly.  I think we have to fight off the people who are attacking us. There’s a lot of that. It’s easy to pick on somebody when they’re going through change, or down luck, or whatever those words are. Misconception about our suppliers, vendors, and all this you hear so much about. And I’m just exhausted. So I just kinda started ignoring it. I know our relationship with our suppliers. It’s pretty good. I appreciate what they do and I think they appreciate what we do. I think that there’s a lot of just...noise that goes on around this team because we have just enough bad news to make everything sound like it makes sense. To me, it’s much to do about nothing. If something falls apart, we’ll fix it. Now we do have a few things going on that are very uncomfortable that we’re having to address in a big picture way. We have a couple of people that are trying to take advantage of our weakness. And we’re gonna fight them off while at the same time trying to improve.”

“No. Not at all. My job is the driver to be quite honest,” Gaulding said at Daytona 500 media day. “I don’t really know any background of what’s going on. I know something is going down tomorrow in court, which I hope it’s all things positive. I just gotta keep a positive attitude. This is the biggest thing of my life. The plan is to be racing in the Duels and get a good starting spot for the 500.”

Meanwhile, Gaulding spoke to the media about getting the call to drive the No. 23 Toyota in the ‘Great American Race’.

“I didn’t know I was running the race. We planned on it earlier in the year a couple months before. This business is tough and sometimes things work out and sometimes things don’t. I was just a lucky guy to get that call Thursday night at 12:30. To get that call, to get into the Daytona 500, is like the biggest call of my whole life. This is the biggest race I look forward to and watch.”

This Sunday marks the first ever start for Gaulding at Daytona International Speedway in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. In two starts last season on plate tracks, at Talladega Superspeedway, Gaulding finished 20th in May and ninth there in October.

The 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season is unofficially underway with the completion of the 40th annual Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona. Brad Keselowski, who drew the last starting spot in a blind draw by children on Saturday, won the race as a caution at the exit of turn two on the final lap ended the exhibition event.

The Michigan native led the field for 43 of the 75 circuits to score the win. The exhibition season opener will not count in the win total but does give the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford team some bragging rights going into the second portion of Speedweeks at Daytona.

“I was worried about the run but the car was way overheating there at the end and I was more worried about it blowing up than anything else,” said Keselowski after the win. “Doug Yates and his guys did a good job giving me something real durable to take all that and keep digging. I am really proud of the whole effort here. What a way to start speedweeks, putting the Miller Lite Ford in Victory Lane. I am really proud of my team.”

The exhibition race allows a first-hand look at the new rule changes as they prepare for the Duel 150 races on Thursday and the Daytona 500 next Sunday. The Duel’s will set the rest of the starting order for next Sunday’s Daytona 500. Some drivers spoke about the differences they felt after the race.

“The cars are a handful. They are supposed to be. This is professional racing and they are supposed to be hard to drive,” Keselowski said later after the win. “This was no exception today. This is probably the hardest I have ever had to drive a car at Daytona, but I am not complaining.”

“I thought the car would be a handful and at times they were, said Ryan Blaney. “You can get pretty loose and the bumps shoot you around. Not too bad. Something to be aggressive with, which is what you need. You can always get a little more and maybe we will learn more about that in the Duels and 500.”

Erik Jones, who enters his second season of full-time racing in NASCAR’s premier series, expressed his thoughts on the new package at Daytona after finishing eighth.

“The new package is a handful. It’s hard to race. It was single-file the whole time and if you try to make something happen, you go to the back,” said Jones. “We went to the back and lost the draft, and that was about the end of it. From here, we have to try to figure out what we have to do for the (Daytona) 500 to stay in contention.”

Joey Logano will leave Daytona finishing in the runner-up position. Logano, a teammate to race winner Brad Keselowski, started third and led the freight train for one lap.

“It is fun when you are up there running and you don’t know what is going to happen. The suspense keeps building as you are running single-file,” said Logano. “Three to go, two to go, here comes the white flag. When do you make the move? Do you make a move? Sometimes you make and it is never the right thing. Everything has to time out just right. You are waiting to see what everyone else is going to do and you are thinking about the type of people they are and what the possible moves are they will make. Then as soon as we hit the white flag Blaney was able to go to the bottom, I had to stay on top because I would have gotten passed by the 48. I thought I would get a good push on the backstretch. The 41 had a hell of a run. Then they wadded them up.”

Last Season in the Advance Auto Parts Clash, Logano, from Connecticut, led the field for four laps and ended the night victorious. The series veteran started that race in ninth.

Kurt Busch rounded out the top three finishers in the Clash at Daytona. Busch, from Las Vegas, started 14th and rebounded from an issue towards the middle of the event. On lap 35, Busch was involved in an incident with Jamie McMurray in turn four. He was able to continue on while McMurray received a big deal of the damage.

Busch and the No. 41 team had several things on their checklist going into the 40th annual event.

“Project number one was to do all the laps so that we could understand more about our tires and our setup and the way that the car was going to handle. Then step number two was to have fun. I had a blast. I wanted to make another move on the last lap but ran out of steam because the guys behind me got too wide. I couldn’t jump in there and go after the Penske guys. It is a good day for Ford and good day for us and Billy Scott, my new crew chief. Now we will go back and debrief about our car.”

Less than 10 laps later, on lap 43, McMurray took his No. 1 Cessna Chevrolet to the garage area and was done for the day.

The race stayed clean for majority of the event until turn two on the final lap. That’s when Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne and Martin Truex Jr. made contact to give Brad Keselowski the race victory.

“The 42 (Kyle Larson) got into the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) and messed him up a little on the straightaway there and then it was on after that,” said Kyle Busch after the race when asked about the last lap crash.

Ryan Blaney and Austin Dillon rounded out the top five finishers. With Blaney’s fourth-place finish, Ford Racing took home the top-four spots. As for Dillon, his fifth-place finish was the highest finishing position for Chevrolet. Denny Hamlin was the highest finisher for Toyota in sixth.

Kyle Busch, Erik Jones, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Larson rounded out the top 10.

The next race for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will be on Thursday, February 15. The Duel 150 races will set the rest of the starting grid for Sunday’s Daytona 500 with the exception of the front row. Before the Clash, Alex Bowman, driving the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet, won the pole for the ‘Great American Race’. Denny Hamlin, driving the No. 11 FedEx Toyota, secured the second-place starting spot. These races will air live on FOX Sports 1 at 7:00 p.m. ET. and will also be carried by MRN radio and SiriusXM Channel 90.

The ARCA Racing Series kicked-off their season of racing on Saturday at Daytona International Speedway in what was a thrilling finish at the end. The event went into several over-time attempts before Michael Self captured his second-career ARCA Racing Series win. Natalie Decker, who enters her first full-time season in the series, started the Lucas Oil 200 Driven by General Tire on the pole.

Self, who had won the season finale the last time out at Kansas Speedway in October of 2017, survived the late-race chaos that included two lengthy red flags in his No. 15 Sinclair Lubricants Toyota for Venturini Motorsports. The Utah native started the 80-lap race, which was extended to 92 laps, in the 13th starting spot.

"I got really lucky. I made it through all the wrecks. This thing is rough…it's beat up. I made some mistakes, but we were able to overcome them,” said Self after the race. “I had a lot of help on the radio…that's why we're here. This is especially great for Sinclair. It's insane how rewarding this feels. That company took a chance on me. They're from my home state, and that's really special."

Along with two victories, Self now holds six top five and six top 10 finishes in the ARCA Racing Series through 10 starts.

Willie Mullins later finished the night in the runner-up spot after starting in ninth. Mullins, driving the No. 3 Crow Wing Recycling Ford, avoided the multi-car accidents to keep the No. 3 car clean. Making his 12th career start in the series, Mullins, a 37-year old driver from Virginia, scored his second career top 10 finish.

"We had a really good plan," said Mullins after the long event. "Drop back from our ninth starting position and drop to the back, conserve fuel and make sure we were there at the end. Then we finally ran up to the front. I’m just so thankful for this all volunteer crew. We do this out of a little garage in Virginia. I couldn't be happier."

His first top 10 came in the season opener at Daytona in 2016 where he left the 2.5-mile oval with an eighth-place finish.

Sheldon Creed, who spent some time leading the pack at Daytona, rounded out the top three finishers. The driver, from California, started the evening in the 14th starting spot and took home his sixth career top five finish.

"We started in the back…it worked out kind of nice tonight," said Creed. "We saved so much fuel in the beginning. Then we got sucked up in the draft…it's how we got to the front. We got some really good pushes from the 54 and 27. It's all about making deals with the drivers around you. We had good people around us all night."

Natalie Decker, scoring her first career ARCA Racing Series pole on Friday, took home a fifth place finish on Saturday. In eight ARCA starts, Decker, from Wisconsin, scored her best career finish in the series despite receiving fender damage early in the running.

Max Tullman, making his ARCA Racing Series debut at the age of 19, started fourth in the No. 78 Zoomi-Myota Chevrolet for Mason Mitchell Motorsports. The young driver survived the late-race shenanigans to capture a sixth-place finish.

Noah Gragson started 21st and left Daytona International Speedway with a seventh-place finish for David Gilliland Racing. Gragson, one of the hottest young stars in the Camping World Truck Series, from Las Vegas, NV, had work to do in the closing laps of the event. The No. 54 Switch - Safelite Auto Glass Toyota was popped for laying back on the restart and was sent to the rear of the field for the final restart. The 19-year old racer was able to regain much needed spots in one lap to grab a seventh-place finish.

Several drivers found themselves involved in accidents all throughout the event. The most notable one involved ARCA Racing Series veteran driver Bret Holmes on the backstretch. The No. 23 Holmes II Excavation Chevrolet stopped on its side in a crash that involved multiple cars later in the running. He later exited the car and walked to the waiting ambulance. All other drivers involved also walked away from the incident.

The next race for the ARCA Racing Series will be at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway on April 7. The event will air live on MAVTV at 8:00 p.m. ET.  ARCARacing.com will carry live radio and timing and scoring of the event.

The ARCA Racing Series held General Tire pole qualifying on Friday to set the starting field for Saturday’s Lucas Oil 200 Driven by General Tire at Daytona International Speedway. The format involved six groups of drivers and each group had four minutes to post their fastest laps. When completed, Natalie Decker earned the pole for Saturday’s event.

Decker enters her first full-time season in the ARCA Racing Series piloting the No. 25 N29 Capital Partners Toyota with Venturini Motorsports. The driver from Wisconsin posted her time of 49.489, 181.859 mph. in the fourth group of qualifying.

Decker made seven ARCA Racing Series starts in 2017 and earned two top 10 finishes. Her best finish came in race 15 at Road America in the seventh spot. In race 12, at Pocono Raceway, Decker took home her first career top 10 finish with a 10th.

Zane Smith, piloting the No. 41 LaPaz Margarita Mix Toyota, will start beside Decker. Smith, who qualified in the fourth group of drivers, posted a 49.490, 181.855 mph. and was just 0.001 seconds from tying Decker for the top spot.

The California native had seven top five and 11 top 10 finishes in 2017. Smith, who ran 14 of the 20 ARCA Racing Series events last season, finished the year by earning two poles. He tied his best finish of second three times throughout those events.

Chase Purdy rounded out the top three in qualifying on Friday at Daytona. Purdy, who was also involved in the fourth group of drivers, posted a 49.500, 181.818 mph. to earn the third starting spot.

Saturday’s Lucas Oil 200 Driven by General Tire will mark Purdy’s fourth career start in the series. Last season the Mississippi native scored two finishes inside the top 10.

Bobby Gerhart, an eight-time winner at Daytona International Speedway, will have some work to do on Saturday afternoon. Gerhart sat 29th in qualifying and will take the green flag somewhere around that spot once provisionals are set.

Dave Mader III led the first practice session for the ARCA Racing Series on Thursday at Daytona. Mader III ran in the third group of drivers in qualifying and will start around the 28th position. The Alabama native will make his first start in the series since 1994.

Sean Corr led the way on Friday at Daytona in ARCA Racing Series final practice. Corr, piloting the No. 43 NESCO-Empire Racing Chevrolet, will start the Lucas Oil 200 in the 17th starting position. The driver posted his fastest time in the sixth and final group of drivers.

ARCA Racing Series cars will stay inside the garage area until 4:45 p.m. ET. on Saturday. FOX Sports 1 will carry the live broadcast of the race. ARCARacing.com will have live scoring and radio coverage of the 200-mile event.

With Champion’s Week in full-gear in Las Vegas, NASCAR had its annual Myers Brothers Awards ceremony on Wednesday morning. The ceremony, held one-day ahead of the banquet, recognizes drivers, crews, and partners on their outstanding achievements accomplished all throughout the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.

The list of awards handed out include the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award, Buddy Shuman Award, Mechanix Wear Most Valuable Pit Crew award and many others.

Below is a complete list of each award handed out:

2017 Sunoco Rookie of the Year (MENCS): Erik Jones

Buddy Shuman Award: Bruton Smith

Overall Coors Light Pole Award: Kyle Busch

Sherwin Williams Fastest Lap Award: Kyle Busch

NASCAR Marking Achievement Award: FOX / NBC

Mechanix Wear Most Valuable Pit Crew Award: No. 18, Joe Gibbs Racing

Moog Go the Extra Mile Crew Chief of the Year Award: Tony Gibson

Engine Builder of the Year Award: David Wilson, Toyota Racing Development

Mobil 1 Driver of the Year Award: Kyle Larson

Chevrolet Lifetime Achievement Award: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

American Ethanol Award: Martin Truex Jr.

Sunoco Diamond Performance Award: Martin Truex Jr.

Goodyear NASCAR Series Champion Award: Martin Truex Jr.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Crew Chief Award: Cole Pearn

NMPA Myers Brothers Award: Martin Truex Jr. / Sherry Pollex

With today’s ceremony, the engines are just heating up. Later Wednesday will be Victory Lap, where drivers will roar down the Las Vegas Strip, and Glass Case of Emotion live from NATL, which replaced NASCAR’s After the Lap. These events will all air live on NASCAR.com.

The Banquet will air on a one-hour tape-delay starting at 9:00 p.m. ET. on NBCSN.

Vinnie Miller, a 20-year old racer from Metamora, Michigan, went on Tradin’ Paint with Jim Noble and Chocolate Meyers on Tuesday afternoon to announce his 2018 racing plans. The Michigan native announced that he will join JD Motorsports for a full-time slate in the NASCAR XFINITY Series piloting the No. 01 Chevrolet Camaro.

While growing up in Michigan, the young driver grew up racing with 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year driver Erik Jones. He’s even competed at some of the same facilities as 2012 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski.

“It’s a dream come true,” Miller said. “As a young racer, you certainly dream of making it to this level and competing with the best of the best, without being sure it will ever happen. I have several people to thank, but mostly importantly, I need to thank my family for their support. The sacrifices they have made to allow me to chase my dreams do not go unnoticed, and it will be really special to share the next step in this journey with them.”

Miller made one start in the NASCAR XFINITY Series in 2017 at Chicagoland Speedway. In his debut, Miller started 31st and went on to finish 29th in the House.com 300. About a month later, Miller made his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut at Talladega Superspeedway. Piloting the No. 66 Master Manufacturing Chevrolet for owner Jeff Bolen, Miller went on to a seventh-place finish after starting 24th that afternoon.

His resume also includes ARCA and NASCAR K&N Pro Series East starts. In six ARCA races in 2017, Miller finished inside the top 10 four times. His six NASCAR K&N Pro Series East starts includes one top five finish at South Boston and two top 10 finishes

“I see a lot of potential in Vinnie,” said team owner, Johnny Davis. “He is a hard-working young man, and he has demonstrated his ability as a racer. He’ll have a lot to learn next year, but my team is committed to giving him the resources he needs to have a successful rookie year. Vinnie already fits in great with the team, so we’re looking forward to the 2018 season.”

Miller said his representatives and JD Motorsports worked on putting the deal together and had to wait three months before the announcement. The driver mentioned on SiriusXM NASCAR Ch. 90 just how special the announcement was for he and his family members.

“The reactions on their faces whenever they found out about the news was real funny to watch,” said Miller on SiriusXM NASCAR. “Their jaw dropped and they couldn’t believe the news. My grandmother, who has supported me since my late grandfather passed away, cried her eyes out when she heard the news. My mom and dad were super excited for me as well. Nobody could believe it when I told them.”

A crew chief for Miller and other details were not mentioned in the team release.

NASCAR announced penalties following the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Tuesday. The three penalties, spanning across the NASCAR XFINITY and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, were all for lug nut(s) not properly secured.

Crew Chief Jason Ratcliff, on the No. 20 Toyota driven by Matt Kenseth, was fined $20,000 and suspended from the next Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship points event. The penalty is higher because the car was found with two missing or not secured lug nuts following the event.

Crew chief Paul Wolfe, on the No. 2 Ford driven by Brad Keselowski, has been fined $10,000 for lug nut(s) not properly secured.

The one and only penalty found in the NASCAR XFINITY Series garage over the weekend impacted the No. 16 Ford driven by Ryan Reed. Phil Gould has been fined $5,000 for lug nuts not properly secured.

There were no penalties found in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series garage.

NASCAR just crowned three brand-new champions over the weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway in all three of its National Series. That means we head into the long offseason over the next three months as everyone recuperates and prepares for the upcoming 2018 season.

There are several key dates and events that all fans should be marking down on their calendar.

The first event in NASCAR’s offseason will be Champion’s Week in Las Vegas from November 28 through November 30. The week will offer numerous activities to celebrate many achievements earned throughout the long and grueling Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season in 2017.

Full Champions Week Schedule:

NASCAR Fan HQ at The Park LOCATION: The Park DATE: Tuesday, November 28th – Thursday, November 30th TIME: Open Daily from 1:00 PM – 8:00 PM PST

NASCAR Fan Lounge at Beerhaus Presented by Coors Light LOCATION: The Park, Beerhaus DATE: Tuesday, November 28th – Thursday, November 30th TIME: Open Daily from 1:00 PM – 8:00 PM PST Join us for Champion’s Week Kicko with 2017 MENCS, NXS and NCWTS Champions DATE: Tuesday, November 28th TIME: 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM PST

NASCAR Drivers Autograph Session LOCATION: NASCAR Fan HQ at The Park DATES: Tuesday, November 28th, and Thursday, November 30th TIMES: Tuesday 3:00 PM – 4:30 PM PST, Thursday 11:30 AM -1:00 PM PST

APPRECI88ION, An Evening with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Presented by Nationwide LOCATION: Rose. Rabbit. Lie at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas DATE: Tuesday, November 28th TIME: 9:00 PM PST – 10:30 PM PST

NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards LOCATION: Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas DATE: Wednesday, November 29th TIME: 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM PST

NASCAR Victory Lap™ Fueled by Sunoco LOCATION: Las Vegas Blvd /Toshiba Plaza at T-Mobile Arena DATE: Wednesday, November 29th TIME: 2:30 PM – 5:00 PM PST

NASCAR Aer the Lap™ Supporting the Vegas Strong Fund DATE: Wednesday, November 29th LOCATION: The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan TIME: 8:00 PM – 11:00 PM PST

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Awards LOCATION: Wynn Las Vegas DATE: Thursday, November 30th TIME: Red Carpet – 4:00PM PST Awards – 5:00 PM PST Broadcast live on SiriusXM and MRN Broadcast on NBCSN, 9:00PM EST/ 6:00PM PST

On December 9, the NASCAR Camping World Truck and NASCAR XFINITY Series will celebrate their champions and all of their achievements throughout 2017. This will be held at the Crown Ballroom inside the Charlotte Convention Center.

On January 19 in Charlotte, NASCAR will induct Red Byron, Ray Evernham, Ron Hornaday, Ken Squier and Robert Yates into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. This special night will highlight all of their achievements made while working in the sport of NASCAR.

The Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour in Charlotte will take place January 22-24. This date is important because many teams will talk about how they’re feeling going into the brand-new season. Some teams will also use the media tour to announce last minute driver changes, sponsor additions, or crew changes for the upcoming race season.

In 83 days, on February 11, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series on-track action will return at Daytona International Speedway for the Advance Auto Parts Clash. The unofficial season opener event will take place shortly after qualifying for the 60th annual Daytona 500.

On Thursday, February 15, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will go green for the first of two Duel 150 races at 7:00 p.m. ET. on FS1. The two races will determine the rest of the starting field for the 60th annual ‘Great American Race’. The Motor Racing Network will carry the live radio broadcast of both races.

On Friday, February 16, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will kick-off its season at Daytona International Speedway. A starting time and broadcast channel for the Nextra Energy Resources 250 will be announced at a later date.

On Saturday, February 17, the NASCAR XFINITY Series will begin its season at the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway. Like the Camping World Truck Series season opener, a starting time or broadcast channel for the Power Shares QQQ 300 has yet to be announced.

And then the big day. The Daytona 500. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will officially begin its season with the biggest stock car race in the world on February 18. The 60th annual event will begin at 3:00 p.m. ET. live on FOX and MRN.

Be sure to check SpeedwayDigest.com and follow us on Twitter @SpeedwayDigest all offseason long for news and notes regarding 2018!

Cole Custer will end 2017 with his first career NASCAR XFINITY Series victory on Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Custer, who started in second, led the field for 182 circuits in his No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford with Haas Automation on the side.

The season marked the first year of racing full-time in the series as he ran a full-time Camping World Truck Series slate with JR Motorsports in 2016. Custer, a 19-year old from California, closed out 2017 with seven top five and 19 top 10 finishes and an average finish of 13.3.

“We were so close to making it last weekend and really wanted to end strong.  We knew we were gonna be really good this weekend, but our Haas Automation Mustang was unreal,” said Custer after the win. “We really wanted to have a good showing at Ford Championship Weekend. Even though we weren’t in it we wanted to win.  Hopefully, we can sweep it tomorrow.”

In addition to that, Custer became the only driver in 2017 to have a perfect driver rating of 150.0 at the end of a race. The No. 00 also swept all three stages enroute to victory lane in the Ford EcoBoost 300.

“I don’t know.  I’ve had some good cars before, but that was pretty impressive,” added Custer when asked if he ever had a car this strong. “ I can’t say enough about this group, too.  They’ve worked so hard all year getting it up and going and it’s just unbelievable.  There’s no better team I’ve worked with before and I can’t thank them enough.”

William Byron will walk away with the 2017 NASCAR XFINITY Series driver championship. Byron entered his first full-time season in the series after racing full-time in the Camping World Truck Series with Kyle Busch Motorsports last year.

The championship did not come easy for Byron in the closing laps. The battle came down to he and Elliott Sadler for the spot when things went south for Sadler. While racing Ryan Preece, Sadler and Preece made contact, causing both cars to either hit the wall or nearly spin. The two drivers got out of the car and expressed their displeasures with NASCAR officials keeping them away following the race.

“I don’t know that I took a breath the last 20 laps,” said Byron when asked about the battle with Sadler at the end. “That was incredible.  I just have to thank this team.  This is awesome. Elliott (Sadler, teammate) raced me clean and we just raced hard for it.  I just can’t believe this.  I’ve just got to thank God for giving me this platform to perform.  I can’t believe this.  I’m tired, whew.  Thanks to all the fans here this evening, this is an unbelievable crowd, I just can’t believe it.”

Meanwhile -- Elliott Sadler and Ryan Preece expressed their thoughts on the incident after the race.

“Tonight is the closest I've ever been to winning a championship,” Sadler said after the race. "Having the lead against [Byron], the race is in my hands to win the championship, and when I dove down into Turn 1, we'd been running behind [Preece] for 10 laps. When I dove down into [Turn] 1, I thought he was going to give it to me, and I was going to slide in front of him, and he just gassed it and pinched me down, and that was it.

“I mean, really I got hired to race this race for the owner championship. We weren’t anywhere near the 22 (Sam Hornish Jr.), but we were racing the 9 (William Byron),” said Preece regarding the incident with Sadler. “It’s pretty much what I said. If it was the 7 (Justin Allgaier) and the 1 (Elliott Sadler) or anyone else that wasn’t in for that owner championship, probably, I definitely would have just laid right over. I’ve been an Elliott Sadler fan growing up, so if I wanted somebody to win that owner championship, or driver championship, it would have been him. Just, I can’t not listen to my owner. I can’t not listen to my, the guy who’s paying you in the end, so it’s just a tough deal. It’s crappy in the end - but I hate controversy.”

Sadler slid back to finish in the eighth spot. Preece, who made a spectacular save in the ordeal, went on to finish fifth.

Byron will graduate from the NASCAR XFINITY Series and move into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2018. The driver will take over the No. 24 Chevrolet at Hendrick Motorsports. Chase Elliott will move from the No. 24 Chevrolet and into the No. 9 Chevrolet. Alex Bowman will join the team to pilot the No. 88 ride.

Justin Allgaier was the third highest finishing Championship 4 driver in 12th. Allgaier started the day in 16th and couldn’t make a charge for the championship in his No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet. He’ll finish the year with two wins, 10 top five and 17 top 10 finishes.

Daniel Hemric was looking strong as one of the Championship 4 drivers through stage one. Hemric ended stage one as the highest Championship 4 driver in seventh. Shortly after that, Hemric, driving the No. 21 Poppy Bank Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing, had a battery issue that forced Hemric down pit road.

The costly issue kept the team on pit road for 11 circuits as they diagnosed the problem. The young racer will leave Homestead with a 34th-place finish and 13 laps down.

Team Penske’s No. 22 team will end the season with the owner's championship on Saturday. The No. 22 Ford team finished one-point ahead of the No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet team.

“Great day. It didn’t look really good after the first stint. I didn’t have any brakes left. Not sure what happened. We’ve been having a little bit of a brake issue,” said Hornish. “I may have rode them too hard trying to get the car to do what  I wanted it to do. The Ford Mustang came to life after we were able to make some changes on it on the first stop. I basically didn’t use any brakes on the last 155 laps. It was great that we didn’t have a bunch of restarts. I felt that if we did we might have had to makes some adjustment to run with Cole.”

“I guess when you look at the guys that drove the car and certainly Sam today with all the pressure on him. The 9, the 18 and 20, there were four of us that could win this championship and obviously the way they ran the race, the strategy was perfect and Cole Custer had a great car so congratulations to him,” said owner Roger Penske. “More importantly is when you think about Austin (Cindric), Ryan Blaney, Brad (Keselowski) and Joey (Logano) all driving this car during the season. We have to take our hat off to Greg Erwin and the guys on the 22 team because they did a teriffic job. We are happy with it. Obviously I hope I am sitting here tomorrow but at the end of the day this is Saturday and we had a great run.”

The car featured numerous drivers throughout 2017 -- including MENCS drivers Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski. The list also included Sam Hornish Jr., and Austin Cindric.

The five drivers scored a combined total of four victories throughout the season.

The NASCAR XFINITY Series will head into the long offseason before returning to action on February 17, 2018 at Daytona International Speedway. Stay tuned to SpeedwayDigest.com all offseason for news and notes regarding the upcoming season!