NASCAR unveils ‘Next’ roster for 2013

1 Comment

Pinpointing talented young guns that could eventually turn into Sprint Cup superstars, NASCAR revealed its 2013-14 “NASCAR Next” driver roster today at Iowa Speedway.

Three countries, 10 U.S. states, one NASCAR touring series title, and 32 overall touring series wins are represented amongst the 13 competitors. In order to be considered for “NASCAR Next” status, drivers must be between the ages of 15 and 25 years old, be actively competing in a NASCAR touring or weekly series, have plans to eventually move up to the category’s premier series, and, of course, have the skills to do so.

“This program has made great strides in a short time,” said NASCAR vice president of industry services Jill Gregory in a statement. “The evolution of NASCAR Next builds on that success with the influx of young, talented drivers continuing throughout all of NASCAR’s racing series. This program provides a platform to help foster their growth within our sport, and introduce these young and talented drivers to NASCAR fans who will likely be hearing more about them in years to come.”

So, who’s got “Next” in NASCAR? Here they are:

Jeb Burton (pictured), 20, Halifax, Va. – Three poles, four Top-10 finishes so far in rookie CWTS campaign. Son of 2002 Daytona 500 champ Ward Burton and nephew of Sprint Cup stalwart Jeff Burton.

Chase Elliott, 17, Dawsonville, Ga. – Two Top-5 results in three CWTS starts this year. Son of former Cup champ Bill Elliott.

Gray Gaulding, 15, Colonial Heights, Va. – Currently in the K&N Pro Series East, where he’s set records for youngest pole winner and race leader this past April at Richmond.

Ryan Gifford, 24, Winchester, Tenn. – First African-American driver to win K&N Pro Series East pole (Martinsville, 2010). Product of NASCAR’s ‘Drive for Diversity’ project.

Cameron Hayley, 16, Calgary, Alberta, Canada – Races in K&N Pro Series West. Won the inaugural UNOH Battle At The Beach at Daytona this past February.

Ben Kennedy, 21, Daytona Beach, Fla. – Has won twice already in K&N Pro Series East. Slated to make CWTS debut at Bristol in August.

Dylan Kwasniewski, 18, Las Vegas, Nev. – Currently in K&N Pro Series East. Won the K&N Pro Series West championship last season and its Rookie of the Year title in 2011.

Brett Moffitt, 20, Grimes, Iowa – Has collected 31 Top-5 results in 52 career K&N Pro Series East starts. Serves as a test driver for Michael Waltrip Racing.

Ryan Preece, 22, Berlin, Conn. – Races in the Whelen Modified Tour, where he’s notched five wins and 12 poles in his career.

Ben Rhodes, 16, Louisville, Ky. – Has collected podium results this year in the Whelen All-American Series on two big stages: The UNOH Battle of the Beach at Daytona and the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown at Richmond.

Kenzie Ruston, 21, El Reno, Okla. – Three Top-5 results in five career K&N Pro Series East starts as a rookie. Has highest finish by female driver in series history (Greenville-Pickens, third, April 2013).

Michael Self, 22, Park City, Utah – Four wins in 13 starts in the K&N Pro Series West. Flipped to late model stock cars when he was 18 years old after a two-year run in open-wheel machines.

Daniel Suarez, 21, Monterrey, Mexico – Full-time competitor in K&N Pro Series East and also currently in Top 5 of standings in the NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series.

Andretti Autosport picks James Hinchcliffe for last 3 races of season

Andretti Autosport James Hinchcliffe
Chris Owens/IndyCar
Leave a comment

James Hinchcliffe will finish the NTT IndyCar Series season for Andretti Autosport, replacing Zach Veach in the No. 26 Dallara-Honda.

The team made the announcement Friday afternoon that Hinchcliffe will return after racing for Andretti at Texas Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and the Indianapolis 500.

Hinchcliffe, who also has worked as an IndyCar on NBC analyst and pit reporter, will race in the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida.

“It’s always unfortunate to have to change drivers this far into a season, but we have to look at finishing the year the best we can for the 26 team and start evaluating and looking at options for 2021,” team owner Michael Andretti said in a release. “James has an existing relationship with our team that we’d love to build on and it makes the most sense for him to step in for these last three races. We are looking forward to seeing what he can do.”

Hinchcliffe has a season-best finish of seventh in the Indy 500. He had been working on trying to put together a deal for next season after scrambling to secure a partial schedule this year when he lost his ride at Arrow McLaren SP after 2020 with a year left on his deal.

VEACH OUT: Driver elects to vacate seat for rest of season

“I know, probably better than most, what Zach is feeling right now, and I have to say that he has handled everything about as class act as you can,” Hinchcliffe said. “I’ve known Zach as a teammate, before that as a colleague and even before that as a friend, and he is a guy that I respect in every way. I know he is a fighter and will fight back to where he wants to be.

“For me now, my focus is 100% on racing the Harvest GP and getting the best possible results for Gainbridge, for Honda, for Michael and for the team. I obviously haven’t been on a road course in a while, but at least the last time I was, it was here at IMS! Hopefully that puts us in a good position to go out there and have a strong weekend.”