Jeff Green

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.

With 2 championships in 4 years, Gene Haas is now one of NASCAR’s elite owners

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While it’s people that build championship-winning teams, the success or failure of an organization ultimately rests with one person: the team owner.

How an organization performs, how it overcomes adversity and how it establishes a long-term linage, not to mention assembling the right people in the right positions is a direct reflection of the guy who signs the checks.

That’s why individuals like Rick Hendrick, Roger Penske, Joe Gibbs and others have thrived for so long. The man at the top of the heap fosters a winning attitude that is contagious within the organization.

There is no room for mediocrity or failure. As the late Vince Lombardi said, “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.”

And that’s particularly true in NASCAR, where second place is indeed the first loser, as Ricky Bobby wisely told us.

From the time he entered Sprint Cup competition as an owner in 2002 until the end of the 2008 season, Gene Haas achieved little success and significant failure in NASCAR.

In 284 starts over that period of time, what was then known as Haas CNC Racing failed to win even one race, managed just one top-5 and only 14 top-10 finishes.

To say Haas’ teams were not competitive is an understatement. They finished on the lead lap in just 79 of those 284 starts, roughly once every four races.

During that tenure, Haas employed a number of different drivers, including Ward Burton, Mike Bliss, Jeff Green, Johnny Sauter, Scott Riggs, Jack Sprague, John Andretti, the late Jason Leffler, Jeremy Mayfield, Max Papis, Tony Raines and Ken Schrader.

None brought success.

In fact, the best season finishes in Haas CNC history were back-to-back 28th place showings, by Bliss in 2005 and Green in 2006.

Lack of success was something Haas simply was not used to in his life. He became a very wealthy manufacturer of industrial equipment.

And when you’re used to success, you can tolerate failure for only so long before taking action.

Seven seasons was enough for Haas.

When he offered a 50 percent ownership equity stake to Tony Stewart to form a “new” team following the 2008 season, it was not an easy choice for Stewart to make.

Stewart had been with Joe Gibbs Racing since he first came to NASCAR in 1999, earning a pair of championships along the way in 2002 and again in 2005.

But when Gibbs switched from Chevrolet to Toyota in 2008, Stewart was not enamored after a nearly 15-year relationship with Chevrolet or General Motors.

When Haas told Stewart he would campaign Chevys and either buy or lease equipment from Hendrick Motorsports, the preeminent organization in NASCAR, Stewart learned one very important lesson:

Just how bound and determined Haas was to turn his organization into a winner.

Stewart took Haas up on his offer and three seasons later, Stewart and SHR were Sprint Cup champs in 2011.

Three years after that, Kevin Harvick would earn SHR its second championship in the last four seasons.

Since forming SHR with Stewart prior to the 2009 season, the organization as a whole has made 540 starts and come away with 25 race wins, 103 top-5 and 204 top-10 finishes.

Success has begotten success with Haas. He’s building a top-flight organization that will compete in Formula One beginning in 2016.

He’s given opportunities to succeed to Kurt Busch and Danica Patrick. He’s stuck by Stewart through thick and thin, particularly in light of the Kevin Ward Jr. tragedy.

Haas turns 62 on Thursday. At a time when other owners might start thinking about retiring, he’s essentially just getting started.

He has now moved into the upper echelon of team owners in the sport, right up there with the Hendricks, Gibbs and Penskes.

Gone are the days of 28th-place season finishes.

Gone are the days of hoping to win a race, yet never taking that checkered flag.

Gone are the days where, frankly, Haas CNC Racing was little more than an afterthought in the world of Sprint Cup racing.

Now, it’s become one of the most successful and potent organizations in the sport.

Back in the early years of his NASCAR tenure, Haas would find himself somewhere near the back of the room during the annual awards banquet. After all, there was little to reward or award him for.

But now, if things continue going in the direction they have the last four seasons, much like he was during Friday’s awards banquet, Haas may indeed remain at the head table for a lot more years to come.

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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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Kentucky native Jack Roush to be inducted into state’s Motorsports Hall of Fame

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Legendary motorsports team owner and innovator Jack Roush has long been identified with the state of Michigan, where his corporate empire is headquartered in Livonia (suburban Detroit).

But here’s something I bet a lot of Roush Fenway Racing fans didn’t know – unless they looked it up:

While he may have committed the last several decades of his racing career to the blue oval of Ford, the man nicknamed “The Cat In the Hat” is actually a native of the Bluegrass State.

And because of that distinction, Roush, who was born in Covington, Ky., will be one of 13 new members inducted Saturday into the Kentucky Motorsports Hall of Fame in Owensboro.

Owensboro, of course, is the home of NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip, brother Michael, former NASCAR Busch Series champ Jeff Green and former NASCAR driver Jeremy Mayfield.

Induction into the Kentucky Hall is one of countless honors Roush has received in his career, including the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2006 and the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 2010.

If you’re in the Owensboro area and want to attend, the ceremony takes place Saturday at 4 pm ET at the aptly-named SpeedZeum inside the Owensboro Museum of Science and History.

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