NASCAR Continues to 'Drive for Diversity' | BlackPressUSA – Black Press USA


Ernie Francis Jr. (Photo: Ernie Francis Jr. Racing)
Ernie Francis Jr.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

As fast as the cars that go around the track, observers have been quick to point out what for years had been a glaring fact about NASCAR: It’s a white male club. Slowly, however, that’s been changing, and it has become increasingly more unfair to place that label on what is perhaps America’s largest spectator sport.

On Thursday, Dec. 6, NASCAR announced six drivers for its Drive for Diversity Class of 2019, unveiling a group that officials said blends talented newcomers with returning veterans.

Chase Cabre, Ernie Francis Jr., Rubén García Jr. and Nick Sanchez return to the driver development program next season and they’ll be joined by first-time participants Brooke Storer and Gracie Trotter.

The six were chosen from the 12 invitees to the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Driver Development Combine last October at New Smyrna Speedway and Bethune-Cookman University.

They will compete in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and Whelen All-American Series next year for Rev Racing.

“It’s an honor to be accepted into this program for this next year,” Ernie Francis, Jr. told NNPA Newswire.

“I think people used to think NASCAR wasn’t diverse but the past couple of years has been very different with folks like Daniel Suárez and Bubba Wallace, I think we’re showing there is diversity,” Francis said.

The Drive for Diversity program counts as proof that NASCAR continues its mission for faces that aren’t just white and male, he said.

“This program has brought in programs from all types of backgrounds,” said Francis, a second-timer for the program and a five-time Trans Am Series Champion.

The program began in 2004 and participants already include Kyle Larson, Daniel Suárez, and Wallace – each of whom are racing in the Cup Series, NASCAR’s top division.

While those three are 25, 25, and 24-years-old respectively, Francis is still just 20 and all are a testament to NASCAR’s burgeoning youth movement.

“This year’s class features six highly talented drivers who each possess an impressive blend of skill and experience,” said Jusan Hamilton, NASCAR senior manager of racing operations and event management.

“We’re thrilled to see these drivers develop throughout the 2019 season and enjoy success both on and off the race track.”

The 2019 campaign will mark the 10th season that Max Siegel’s Rev Racing organization has fielded cars for the Drive for Diversity Driver Development Program.

The team has amassed 19 wins in the K&N Pro Series.

Francis, who will continue to run in the Trans Am Series while fielding a Late Model for Rev Racing in the Whelen All-American Series, is scheduled to participated in NASCAR K&N Pro Series East road courses.

His interest in racing began at the tender age of 4, watching his dad, Ernie Francis, Sr., he said.

By 14, Francis was already on the track.

During his rookie season with Rev Racing, Francis earned one top 5, one top 10 and one pole award in just two races. In 2017, Francis also had a career-first start in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

At the age of 16, he became the youngest Trans Am Series Champion and he’s the winningest driver in 50 years of the series.

Other career highlights include the Trans Am Rookie of the Year Award, the 2016 FARA Miami 500 Champion, and the Pirelli World Challenge Rookie of the Year Award.

“I’ve been around racing my whole life,” Francis said. “I have a passion that I developed at a young age because of my dad and I love this and I will have that passion forever,” he said.

Of the Drive for Diversity Program, Francis offered praise to NASCAR.

“NASCAR needs to get younger and more diverse drivers out there and that’s what they’re doing,” he said. “And, the program has worked out pretty well.”



Xfinity, Truck Series champions crowned, celebrated in Charlotte – NASCAR


CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Saturday night belonged to champions Tyler Reddick and Brett Moffitt as the best in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series were feted on Saturday night at the Crown Ballroom in the Charlotte Convention Center.

Reddick was celebrated following his title driving the No. 9 Chevrolet for the Dale Earnhardt Jr. co-owned JR Motorsports.

“This year was a big character-building year for me and it’s a great honor to bring JR Motorsports its third Xfinity Series championship,” Reddick said during his champion’s speech.

PHOTOS: Scenes from the red carpet

The 22-year-old California native bookended his season with victories to start the year at Daytona and a championship triumph to close the season at Homestead-Miami. He had come into the postseason as a bit of an underdog, especially when compared to his JRM teammates Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier as well as fellow rookie Christopher Bell.

“Tyler, I was just blown away — not only at Homestead,” Earnhardt Jr. said when presented with the championship owner award. “With each race, he handled his business. He was aggressive and did everything he needed to do. Just really impressed with him. Looking forward to seeing what he can do next year at RCR. It’s going to be fun to race against him.”

Reddick will defend his crown but with a new team in 2019: Richard Childress Racing.

RELATED: On the Move for 2019 | Reddick celebrates title with champion’s day

The Truck Series champion knew a little something about being an underdog as well. Moffitt surged to six wins in the upstart No. 16 Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota. The championship was also the first for team owner Shigeaki Hattori. When you consider what the team’s original plans were for 2018, that is quite remarkable.

Brett Moffitt
Streeter Lecka | Getty Images

“When the 2018 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series kicked off in February, our Hattori Racing team only had four races on the schedule,” Moffitt said during his speech when reflecting on the season. “So to be standing here today in front of you as the 2018 champion is truly an honor and quite unbelievable.”

The 26-year-old Iowa native had a knack for coming on strong late in races for wins and that trend continued in the latter stages of the postseason. The Iowa native closed the playoffs with back-to-back wins at ISM (Phoenix) and Homestead-Miami.

Moffitt admitted in a post-race availability after the awards ceremony that he is still working on his 2019 plans.

Each champion received his championship ring and Goodyear presented each title-winning driver with a mini-silver replica of their respective car and truck.

Joey Logano was also honored with the 2018 Comcast Community Champion Award. The drivers who finished second through fourth in each series — Cole Custer, Daniel Hemric and Christopher Bell in the Xfinity Series as well as Noah Gragson, Justin Haley and Johnny Sauter in the Truck Series — each gave speeches discussing their seasons as members of the Championship 4.

The banquet also was the last that will reference the Truck Series as the Camping World Truck Series. That series is being rebranded to the Gander Outdoors Truck Series starting in 2019.

Below is a complete list of the awards that were handed out on Saturday night:

Camping World Truck Series

Mahle Engine Builder of the Year: Victor Garcia, Ilmor Engines
Duralast Brake in the Race Award: Noah Gragson, No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota
Mobil 1 Driver of the Year: Johnny Sauter, No. 21 GMS Racing Chevrolet
Sunoco Rookie of the Year: Myatt Snider, No. 13 ThorSport Racing Ford
Manufacturer Championship: Chevrolet
Champion Sponsor: AISIN Group
Champion Crew Chief Award: Scott Zipadelli, No. 16 Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota
Champion Truck Owner Award: Shigeaki Hattori, Hattori Racing Enterprises
Champion: Brett Moffitt, No. 16 Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota (Presented with American Ethanol Award, Sunoco Diamond Performance Award, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company Award)

Xfinity Series
Mahle Engine Builder of the Year: Doug Yates, Roush Yates Engines
Duralast Brake in the Race Award: Daniel Hemric, No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
Mobil 1 Driver of the Year: Christopher Bell, No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Sunoco Rookie of the Year: Tyler Reddick, No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet
Manufacturer Championship: Chevrolet
Champion Car Owner Award: No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, accepted by Greg Zipadelli
Champion Crew Chief Award: Dave Elenz, No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet
Champion Owner Award: Dale Earnhardt Jr., JR Motorsports
Champion: Tyler Reddick, No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet (Presented with American Ethanol Award, Sunoco Diamond Performance Award, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company Award)



Nascar launches inaugural esports series – SportsPro Media


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Competition introduced in partnership with Race Team Alliance and 704Games.

Nascar launches inaugural esports series

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US racing series Nascar has partnered with Race Team Alliance and video game developer 704Games to launch the inaugural Nascar esports league.

The competition will comprise of up to 16 race teams and 32 drivers, which will be owned by prominent existing Nascar race franchises. The series will be known as the eNASCAR Heat Pro League.

Fans across the US who own racing game Nascar Heat 3 will be given the chance to qualify for the Heat Pro League Draft, which is set to take place in early 2019.

The esports league will then feature a 16-race season beginning in spring 2019 and culminating during the 2019 Nascar Playoffs.  

704Games, already the racing series’ exclusive video game esports partner, was behind the release of Nascar Heat 3 in September.

Nascar.com and Motorsport.com will live-stream every race from the esports series online, with each team housing two drivers on different consoles – one on Xbox One and the other on PlayStation 4.

Among the teams taking part in the digital competition are Chip Ganassi Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, JR Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing, Roush Fenway Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing and Team Penske.

Craig Neeb, executive vice president of innovation and development at Nascar, said: “We look forward to taking this first step with our teams to introduce Nascar-style racing to the massive esports audience on consoles.

“Our partners at 704Games have delivered an incredible product and we are enthusiastic about engaging gamers to create new fans and grow our sport.”

Jonathan S. Marshall, executive director of the Race Team Alliance, added: “This is an exciting moment in Nascar history.

“The race teams are taking this new league very seriously and will be looking for the best competitors in the nation to represent their respective teams. We expect the competition level will be high and we challenge these new esports drivers to become the best of the best.”

Paul Brooks, chief executive of 704Games, said: “This partnership creates a once in a lifetime opportunity for Nascar Heat 3 players to work with a Nascar race team and represent their team on a global esports platform.”



Alex Bowman reveals 2019 Nationwide paint scheme with help from Dale Jr. – NASCAR


Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images

MOORESVILLE, N.C. — Alex Bowman helped to take the cover off the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet he’ll drive next season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, capping off an afternoon of surprises at GoPro Motorplex. But those biggest surprises weren’t necessarily on the car itself.

Though his predecessor Dale Earnhardt Jr. was by his side for Thursday’s reveal, the paint scheme for Bowman’s 2019 ride signaled that he’s working to establish some of his own identity as the face of the No. 88. The new-look design featured some subtle changes, with many styling cues carrying over from his first full season with Hendrick Motorsports.

RELATED: More photos from the reveal

“He was still standing by it,” Bowman joked about Earnhardt’s presence. “I don’t know. I feel like everybody’s been really supportive and Nationwide’s really embraced me as well as Axalta, Llumar and Valvoline and everybody at HMS have been super-supportive. That hasn’t been too bad.

“Definitely there are a lot of Dale Jr. fans out there and it’s cool to kind of take over the 88 car, but it’s also really cool to have Dale’s support and all his help.”

Bowman said that the patriotic No. 88 design that he drove at the Coca-Cola 600 last May served as a starting point for creating the 2019 model. Both Bowman and Earnhardt expressed their adoration for the expanded sections of white on the side panels — all the better to show tire marks and race-worn grime, they agreed.

“For me, I don’t know that every driver’s the same, probably not, but man, I had to like the car I was driving, and I wanted to,” said Earnhardt, who estimated he had a hand in the design of 95 percent of the cars he drove during his career. “It made me want to drive it, made me want to race it, made me excited to do well with it.”

Alex Bowman 2019 Paint Scheme
Zack Albert | NASCAR Digital Media

Earnhardt, who transitioned to the broadcast booth for NBC Sports this year after retiring from full-time driving, lent his support Thursday as an emcee for social-media streams of the car’s unveiling. He also gave the event his blessing as a longtime Nationwide endorser, surprising local fans recruited by the insurance company to attend.

Bowman gave his own surprises on the .7-mile karting track, making liberal use of his front bumper with fans and media alike. Guests watching the unveil were asked for a show of hands: “Who got spun out by Alex?” More than one hand shot up.

“It was fun. I tried to run into a couple of them to give them that authentic NASCAR experience,” Bowman said. “It was cool.”

Alex Bowman Paint Scheme1
Zack Albert | NASCAR Digital Media

MORE: Recap Alex Bowman’s season | Watch Bowman’s year in review



Ford and Logano bring home NASCAR trophies to Dearborn – The Detroit News


Dearborn — At Ford they’re partying like it’s 1999.

For the first time in 19 years Ford has won the NASCAR driver’s and manufacturer’s title in the same year. On Wednesday, Ford employees celebrated the occasion with NASCAR superstar and 2018 champion Joey Logano and his team at Ford headquarters.

Logano was joined by his crew chief Todd Gordon of Penske Racing, Edsel Ford Jr., Ford Performance Motorsports chief Mark Rushbrook, Roush engine guru Doug Yates —and Joey’s four-wheeled, earth-pawing, thoroughbred No. 22 Fusion NASCAR.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Logano to a packed Ford World Headquarters auditorium of 500 employees. “This is the top level of American motorsport. This is all I ever wanted to do when I was 6 years old and asked for a go-kart for Christmas.”

Edsel Ford, too, waxed nostalgic. “I started all this in June of 1966 at LeMans with my father. It’s been 50 years of work,”  he remembered, referring to Ford’s historic win over Ferrari in the world’s greatest 24-hour endurance race and putting the Blue Oval on the map as one of the world’s most formidable racing manufacturers.

Dozens of championships have followed —five of them this year, including the IMSA Weathertech GTLM (Ford GT) and Continental Tire Sportscar (Mustang) championships, Australian Supercar (Ford Falcon) and World Rally Champioship (Fiesta).

But none was as sweet as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup two-fer.

Ford has weathered a difficult year in which it announced eliminated of its sedan models while fending off criticism that it’s not moving fast enough to outline a vision for the future. Its performance unit has had no problems with speed.

Logano, one of the most touted oval-racing talents since he was barely a teen, seemingly came out of nowhere in 2018 to defeat “The Big Three” who had dominated the season — Martin Truex, Jr., Kyle Busch, and Kevin Harvick — in the last playoff race at Miami’s Homestead Raceway.

“What an amazing season… last year, we didn’t even make the playoffs,” the 28-year old Logano said of the season-ending races structured like the NFL or NBA post-season. “If it wasn’t for each and every person in this company, there’s not the support to go out an win these races.”

Edsel was effusive in his praise for Logano, who is the youngest driver to ever win a NASCAR Cup race at 19. “Joey is one of the hardest-charging race drivers in NASCAR. Period,” said the Ford scion. “He’s a good man. A good husband… and new father to his little boy Hudson. The night before won the championship, Joey and (his wife) Brittany was at a local grocery store giving out Thanksgiving dinners to the needy of the Homestead community.”

Ford presented No. 22 with a check for $22,000 to the Joey Logano Foundation, which in the last five years has invested more than $2 million in organizations offering a second chances to kids in crisis.

Racing for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup prize is a massive multi-million-dollar team effort encompassing drivers, engineers, engine builders and sponsors across a 36-race calendar. Since founder Henry Ford attracted investors’ attention to his inventions on the track, Ford has aggressively pursued racing as important tech transfer from the track to the showroom. Or, as Ford brass pithily put it: “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday.”

Edsel Ford was lavish in is praise for engine supplier Yates: “He puts the middle name back in Ford Motor Company.”

Notably absent from the team celebration was Roger Penske, whose NASCAR championship capped off a big year for his Bloomfield Township-based race organization. Penske completed a 2018 trifecta in winning the Monster Energy Cup, Indy 500 and Australian Supercar series. Penske was traveling to one of the many outposts in his empire.

“This was my 10th season… and a chance to drive for the greatest car manufacturer and greatest car owner I could ever ask for,” said Logano. “I can’t tell you what it means to drive for the best.”

Logano and Penske will next turn their sights to winter development as Ford introduces an all-new Mustang body and NASCAR regulates V-8 engines to 550 horsepower for long tracks (think Daytona) and 750 for short tracks (Martinsville, for example).

But this day was all about taking a victory lap at headquarters.

“I was scared to death going into Homestead” for the final race, said Edsel. “You don’t know what’s going to happen. There were over 100 dealers there. The victory was very sweet.”

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne. Catch “Car Radio with Henry Payne” from noon-2 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation.



Ex-Truck driver pleads not guilty to enticement – ESPN (press release) (blog)


Former NASCAR driver Rick Crawford, 59, pleaded not guilty Thursday to a federal charge of enticing a minor.

Crawford was arraigned Thursday in U.S. District Court in Orlando, Florida, after being indicted Wednesday, according to federal court documents. He was arrested last week.

According to allegations in a federal complaint, Crawford met a federal agent posing as a man whom Crawford had planned to pay $50 to $75 to have sex with the man’s 12-year-old daughter. That would be lewd and lascivious battery under Florida law.

The complaint states Crawford denied to agents after his arrest that he was there to meet anyone underage.

“Crawford acknowledged that the communications indicated that a 12-year old girl would be involved, but stated that he found that hard to believe,” the complaint said. “He states he showed up to see whether or not the father had a 12 year old daughter, but claimed he would not have gone through with it if the child had been underage.”

A five-time race winner while competing 13 seasons in NASCAR’s truck series, Crawford faces 10 or more years in jail if found guilty. His trial is scheduled for May 7. NASCAR has removed Crawford from its list of industry experts who could hear appeals of penalties, a NASCAR spokesman said last week.