Eric McClure

NASCAR XFINITY: McClure to JGL, Gase re-ups with Means

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Eric McClure will switch from Tri-Star Motorsports to JGL Racing for the 2015 NASCAR XFINITY Series season, his new team announced Monday.

McClure will run the No. 24 Toyota Camry for his 13th season in NXS. The team itself switches from Dodge, which it ran last year, to Toyota for 2015.

Reynolds Consumer Products marks a 10th consecutive season as a series team partner and will serve as primary sponsor on the No. 24 entry for a minimum of 25 events. That includes the Reynolds Wrap and Hefty brands, which have been staples on McClure’s cars throughout his NASCAR career.

JGL Racing, with owner James Whitener and general manager Gregg Mixon, made its debut during the 2014 season-opening event at Daytona Int’l Speedway. The freshman team featured various driver combinations throughout the season for its two-car operation and, collectively, scored one top-five, two top-10, and three top-15 finishes.

McClure enters the campaign with a new crew chief as well, in Jay Guy.

On another NXS note that was announced late last week, Joey Gase will return to Jimmy Means Racing in the No. 52 entry.

“I am excited to be running the full Xfinity season again with Jimmy Means Racing,” Gase said in a release. “Last year was a record-breaking season for us with minimum funding.

“We successfully made both of our goals, which were to finish top 20 in driving points, and to keep the team locked in the top 30 of owner points. Our goals in 2015 will be to finish in the top 20 in driver points once again and to get the team our first top 10 finish.”

NASCAR: Cale Conley lands full-time XFINITY Series ride with Tri-Star

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After running part-time in the NASCAR XFINITY Series last year for Richard Childress Racing, Cale Conley will now compete in the division full-time in 2015 as a member of Tri-Star Motorsports.

The 22-year-old West Virginian competed in 11 NXS races last season in RCR’s No. 33 machine, a part-time car that was also driven by Sprint Cup regulars Paul Menard and Austin Dillon as well as reigning NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Matt Crafton in 2014. Conley’s best finish was a sixth at Kentucky Speedway in September.

“I am looking forward to working with people that are excited to work with me and help me mature as a driver and competitor in this series,” Conley said in a Tri-Star release.

“I am grateful to [owner] Mark Smith and TriStar Motorsports for being willing to take a chance with me and let me race weekend after weekend after weekend, so I can get one step closer to my ultimate dream of being a NASCAR Sprint Cup champion.”

Tri-Star’s four-car operation competed with 13 different drivers last year. Ex-Truck Series champion Mike Bliss ran all 33 NXS events (best finish of 10th at Road America), while Eric McClure, Blake Koch, and former NXS champion Jeff Green also ran a majority of the season with the team.

“TriStar Motorsports is proud to field a Toyota Camry for a rising star in NASCAR,” said Mark Smith, TriStar Motorsports team owner. “With Cale’s drive and passion for NASCAR, I know that we will have a successful 2015 season with him behind the wheel.”

Before entering the NXS scene in 2014, Conley had come up through the sprint car ranks and then the K&N Pro Series East, where he notched his first win in 2012 and raced full-time in 2013.

Keselowski earns pole for final Nationwide Series race at Homestead

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Brad Keselowski originally was not scheduled to compete in Saturday’s Ford EcoBoost 300 season-ending NASCAR Nationwide Series race.

Joey Logano was originally slated to run the Team Penske No. 22 Ford, but with his focus on winning Sunday’s Sprint Cup championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Keselowski was a late replacement.

Even though he was thrown into it, Keselowski obviously didn’t mind. One week after winning the NNS race at Phoenix, Keselowski came back to earn the pole position for Saturday’s NNS race at Homestead.

Keselowski paced the field with a speed of 166.384 mph. It was his fifth NNS pole of the season and 19th of his career. Keselowski has five wins from the pole in that career, as well, including once at HMS.

“I honestly didn’t expect to get the pole,” Keselowski told Fox Sports 1. “My teammate, Ryan Blaney, was really fast the first two sessions.

“But we were able to just find a little extra speed, I got her dialed in and it’s going to be starting on the pole.”

Twice before, Penske Racing has earned the NNS pole at HMS and gone on to victory. Keselowski is gunning to make it three.

“I’d love to add a three to that, so hopefully we can get three wins,” Keselowski said.

Whether Keselowski or another driver wins the race, it will be historic: Saturday’s event will be the final race ever run under the Nationwide Series banner. The series will be rebranded to the Xfinity Series beginning in 2015.

Kyle Larson qualified second (166.353 mph), followed by Matt Kenseth (166.006), Elliott Sadler (165.827), Ryan Blaney (165.756), Kyle Busch (165.685), Brian Scott (165.269), Brendan Gaughan (165.158), Dylan Kwasniewski (164.870), Chris Buescher (164.224), Ryan Reed (163.969) and Josh Berry (162.660).

“We just missed it barely there at the end,” Larson said. “Hopefully, we can have a little better finish than we had last night. We came up just one spot short.”

Larson finished second to Darrell “Bubba” Wallace in Friday night’s Truck Series season finale.

There were a few surprises along the way, as well:

* Chase Elliott, who clinched the Nationwide Series championship last week at Phoenix, had issues with control on his Chevrolet, ultimately being unable to qualify any higher than 14th.

* Regan Smith, who had been Elliott’s chief chaser during the championship battle, also had issues, qualifying 15th. And Ty Dillon also had control issues, qualifying 21st.

Row 1: Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson
Row 2: Matt Kenseth, Elliott Sadler
Row 3: Ryan Blaney, Kyle Busch
Row 4: Brian Scott, Brendan Gaughan
Row 5: Dylan Kwasniewski, Chris Buescher
Row 6: Ryan Reed, Josh Berry
Row 7: Trevor Bayne, Chase Elliott
Row 8: Regan Smith, Corey Lajoie
Row 9: JJ Yeley, Mike Bliss
Row 10: Dakoda Armstrong, Jeremy Clements
Row 11: Ty Dillon, Blake Koch
Row 12: Landon Cassill, James Buescher
Row 13: Ross Chastain, John Wes Townley
Row 14: Eric McClure, Jeffrey Earnhardt
Row 15: David Starr, TJ Bell
Row 16: Paul Menard, Ryan Sieg
Row 17: Ryan Preece, Jeff Green
Row 18: Jake Crum, Tanner Berryhill
Row 19: Matt DiBenedetto, Kevin Lepage
Row 20: Milka Duno, Carlos Contreras

Did not qualify: Derrike Cope, Joey Gase, Ryan Ellis, Johnny Jackson, Martin Roy.

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Kyle Busch earns 7th pole of NNS season, 43rd of career

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Befitting of a guy who grew up in nearby Las Vegas, Kyle Busch rolled sevens in Saturday morning’s qualifying for the DAV 200 – Honoring America’s Veterans NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Phoenix International Raceway.

Busch earned his seventh career pole at PIR and his seventh NNS pole of the season with a field-best speed of 133.963 mph. It was also Busch’s 43rd pole of his NNS career.

“(Crew chief) Adam Stevens and these guys did a great job again and brought me a great piece,” said Busch, who has won the last three NNS races at PIR.

“There’s not much of a secret, per se,” Busch said. “Good cars are just good cars. We have something here that’s figured out.

“It’s not out of the box ordinary. It’s just good to have a dominant car like that, or to have a good car like that when you go to places, and it just seems Phoenix is one of those.”

Busch is also going for his eighth win of the season, having won the NNS race last week at Texas Motor Speedway.

Brad Keselowski qualified second (133.924 mph), followed by Friday night’s Truck series winner Erik Jones (133.670), Elliott Sadler (133.284), Alex Bowman (133.200), Regan Smith (133.077), Ty Dillon (132.993), Brendan Gaughan (132.964), Brian Scott (132.690) and NNS series leader Chase Elliott was 10th-fastest at 132.592 mph.

Former Drive For Diversity participant Mackena Bell made the field for her first career NNS race. She’ll start 39th.

Only one driver failed to qualify, that being Ryan Ellis.

Here’s the starting grid for this afternoon’s race:

Row 1: Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski

Row 2: Erik Jones, Elliott Sadler

Row 3: Alex Bowman, Regan Smith

Row 4: Ty Dillon, Brendan Gaughan

Row 5: Brian Scott, Chase Elliott

Row 6: Kyle Larson, Trevor Bayne

Row 7: Chris Buescher, Dylan Kwasniewski

Row 8: Ryan Reed, James Buescher

Row 9: John Wes Townley, Landon Cassill

Row 10: Brennan Newberry, Mike Bliss

Row 11: Ryan Sieg, Jeffrey Earnhardt

Row 12: Kelly Admiraal, Jeremy Clements

Row 13: Dakoda Armstrong, Blake Koch

Row 14: Jamie Dick, Matt DiBenedetto

Row 15: Jeff Green, Tanner Berryhill

Row 16: TJ Bell, Joey Gase

Row 17: JJ Yeley, Mike Wallace

Row 18: Eric McClure, Chad Boat

Row 19: Morgan Shepherd, Carl Long

Row 20: Mackena Bell, Derrike Cope

DNQ: Ryan Ellis

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Joey Logano wins pole for today’s Nationwide race at Texas

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Joey Logano’s final round lap of 186.981 miles per hour was enough to give him his third Nationwide Series pole of 2014 for today’s O’Reilly Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway.

Logano will look to extend the 31-point lead for Team Penske’s No. 22 outfit in the series owner standings. But he’ll also be gunning for his first Nationwide triumph of the season as well.

“Obviously, the owner’s [title] is what’s on the line and we want to be able to be consistent,” he said to Fox Sports. “But I want to win this race really bad.”

Logano will be joined on the front row by Roush Fenway Racing’s Trevor Bayne, whose lap of 186.419 mph was good enough for second on the grid.

Row 2 will feature reigning series champion and current Sprint Cup rookie Austin Dillon (186.136) in his first series start of the year, plus one of his Richard Childress Racing teammates, Brian Scott.

Penske young gun Ryan Blaney and Kyle Busch make up Row 3, followed by Kevin Harvick and Ty Dillon in Row 4, and Regan Smith and Ryan Reed in Row 5.

Current Nationwide points leader and Texas spring race winner Chase Elliott will roll off from the inside of Row 6 in 11th spot. Elliott leads JR Motorsports teammate Smith in the standings by 42 points.

Clint Bowyer was called upon to replace Elliott Sadler for this qualifying session in his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing machine. Sadler was reported to be receiving fluids in the infield care center and his status for today’s race is unknown; Bowyer qualified the No. 11 in 17th position.

Another Cup rookie, Kyle Larson, and veteran Carlos Contreras did not turn laps in qualifying and will have to start from the back of the field. Larson couldn’t get through inspection due to issues with his car’s right-rear camber and left-rear toe according to Fox Sports, while Contreras didn’t get through after having an engine change.

NASCAR NATIONWIDE SERIES at Texas – O’Reilly Challenge
Starting Grid

1. 22-Joey Logano
2. 6-Trevor Bayne
3. 33-Austin Dillon
4. 2-Brian Scott
5. 12-Ryan Blaney
6. 54-Kyle Busch
7. 5-Kevin Harvick
8. 3-Ty Dillon
9. 7-Regan Smith
10. 16-Ryan Reed
11. 9-Chase Elliott
12. 62-Brendan Gaughan
13. 20-Matt Kenseth
14. 31-Dylan Kwasniewski
15. 60-Chris Buescher
16. 25-John Wes Townley
17. 11-Clint Bowyer
18. 39-Ryan Sieg
19. 84-Chad Boat
20. 98-Corey Lajoie
21. 19-Mike Bliss
22. 43-Dakoda Armstrong
23. 28-J.J. Yeley
24. 51-Jeremy Clements
25. 14-Eric McClure
26. 44-David Starr
27. 01-Landon Cassill
28. 99-James Buescher
29. 93-Kevin Swindell
30. 4-Jeffrey Earnhardt
31. 10-Blake Koch
32. 17-Tanner Berryhill
33. 90-Martin Roy
34. 55-Jamie Dick
35. 40-Matt DiBenedetto
36. 52-Joey Gase
37. 23-Robert Richardson
38. 42-Kyle Larson
39. 87-Carlos Contreras
40. 46-Ryan Ellis

DNQ: 70-Derrike Cope, 74-Mike Harmon, 89-Morgan Shepherd