Kevin Harvick rolls to Nationwide win at Richmond

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JR Motorsports got its third consecutive NASCAR Nationwide Series win tonight at Richmond International Raceway, but it didn’t come from its heralded young gun, Chase Elliott.

Elliott entered tonight’s ToyotaCare 250 – which was delayed by more than three hours due to rain – coming off back-to-back wins at Texas and Darlington.

But neither he or anyone else had an answer for his JRM teammate and Sprint Cup veteran Kevin Harvick, who earned his seventh career Nationwide win at RIR.

Harvick first assumed the lead on Lap 49 and would not let go for essentially the remainder of the 250-lap race, ultimately pacing 202 laps in a dominant performance.

After the race crossed the halfway point, Harvick was unable to fully shake Elliott like he’d been able to earlier in the race. But following what proved to be the last restart of the night with 54 laps left, Harvick was able to slowly build up an insurmountable gap to the 18-year-old rookie.

However, in Victory Lane, Harvick talked about how Elliott’s been able to make the team better.

“Chase is just a good kid,” he said to ESPN. “He knows how to drive a race car and he pushes us to be better by trying different things than [what] we’ve kind of been in our groove to do through the many years.”

As for Elliott, he admitted that Harvick simply was quicker in the final laps.

“We were just a little tight in the middle of the corner,” Elliott said of his final green-flag run. “I think he just outdrove me a little bit and honestly, I feel like some of it was me. I kind of let him get a little too far in front of me there in those first few laps [after restarts], but I don’t know.

“I need to get up on the wheel a little bit harder next week or next time we’re in that situation again….I feel like we came a long way from where we started practice, so it was cool to finish 1-2 for JRM.”

Kyle Busch earned a third-place result, followed by Kyle Larson in fourth, and pole sitter Brian Scott in fifth. Elliott Sadler and Regan Smith recovered from late contact with one another to finish sixth and eighth respectively, with Chris Buescher splitting them in seventh. Ryan Blaney and James Buescher completed the Top 10.

Elliott now holds a 19-point lead in the NNS standings over Smith as the series heads for Talladega Superspeedway next weekend.

NASCAR NATIONWIDE SERIES – ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond
Unofficial Results
1. Kevin Harvick, led 202 laps
2. Chase Elliott
3. Kyle Busch
4. Kyle Larson
5. Brian Scott, led 45 laps
6. Elliott Salder, led one lap
7. Chris Buescher
8. Regan Smith
9. Ryan Blaney
10. James Buescher
11. Trevor Bayne
12. Ryan Reed
13. Landon Cassill
14. Ty Dillon
15. Cale Conley
ONE LAP DOWN
16. Mike Bliss
17. Dakoda Armstrong
18. J.J. Yeley
19. Daniel Suarez
20. Brendan Gaughan
TWO LAPS DOWN
21. Blake Koch
THREE LAPS DOWN
22. Jeremy Clements, led two laps
FOUR LAPS DOWN
23. Joe Nemechek
24. Jeffrey Earnhardt
25. Josh Wise
26. Ryan Sieg
FIVE LAPS DOWN
27. Mike Wallace
28. Derrike Cope
29. Eric McClure
SIX LAPS DOWN
30. Josh Reaume
31. Joey Gase, 11 laps down

32. Dylan Kwasniewski, Lap 187, Accident
33. Mike Harmon, Lap 112, Vibration
34. Derek White, Lap 58, Rear Gear
35. Tanner Berryhill, Lap 27, Transmission
36. Tommy Joe Martins, Lap 11, Suspension
37. Matt Dibenedetto, Lap 6, Electrical
38. Jeff Green, Lap 5, Vibration
39. Kevin Lepage, Lap 2, Accident
40. Jimmy Weller III, Lap 1, Engine

NHRA: Antron Brown takes major step toward team ownership

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There will come a day that when three-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Antron Brown wants to talk to his boss, he’ll need to look no further than in the mirror.

The New Jersey native announced Tuesday that he has begun to lay the groundwork to own his Top Fuel team, eventually branching out from Don Schumacher Racing.

“It’s definitely exciting, but at the same time, it’s also nerve-wracking because the buck stops here right now,” Brown told NBC Sports. “Now the coolest part is you get to help and drive and motivate and push the team forward, to make decisions and leave a legacy behind for my family.”

Brown will continue racing for DSR this season while beginning the transition to eventual sole ownership of the new AB Motorsports in the future. Even when he officially leaves the DSR camp as a hired driver, Brown and his new team will retain a technical partnership with the Schumacher organization.

Moving toward team ownership is just a natural evolution for Brown, who previously ran his own Pro Stock Motorcycle team from 1998 until joining DSR in 2002. It’s also a move that potentially may lead other current drivers to start thinking about their own futures.

It’s no secret that many of the biggest names in drag racing – both drivers and owners – are getting up in years. John Force will soon turn 72, while Schumacher is 75. They’re among several others in the sport who are making contingency plans for their teams to continue to operate once they’re gone – and Brown wants to do his part to help the sport grow and flourish.

“When you’re able to have ownership, you’re looking at the talent coming up,” Brown said. “You’re able to reach down and see and give other people opportunities that you had. When I came to race for Don Schumacher at DSR, he’s given all these people at his place this opportunity to drive.

“But what happens when the Don Schumachers, the John Forces, the Connie Kalittas go? You lose all the owners of our series, so who’s next in line to take over that lineage or carry that torch? It’s a necessary means for the future for the upcoming people.

Antron Brown’s plans to become a team owner were embraced by his current team owner, Don Schumacher. (Getty Images)

“I’ve been in this sport for over 20 years. This is the next evolution of my chapter, the next page of my book. What am I going to do when I decide to hang the helmet up one day? I want to be there to bring that new crop of drivers and talent up and help mold them to be the best version of themselves to carry the sport forward and to share with them what was shared with me over all my years in the sport, from Kenny Bernstein, John Force, Big Daddy Don Garlits, Mark Oswald and Don “Snake” Prudhomme, all the people I looked up to.”

While Brown will start as a single-car team once he transitions to ownership, he hopes to eventually build AB Motorsports into at least a two-car operation, with his Top Fuel dragster and a Funny Car.

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The path to eventual ownership began nearly a year ago when Brown and Schumacher discussed the future.

“Me and Don had a heart-to-heart talk,” Brown said. “When I told him what I wanted to do, Don said, ‘Antron, I know this is what you want to do. I’ll support you in this.’

“That’s a cool experience when you have a gentleman that has done everything in this sport, from over 350 national event wins, 17 world championships – and I’ve done three with him – and is in every motorsports hall of fame there is.

“What is he going to do next? He’s making the sport better by pushing people like myself to do what I’m doing now. No matter how long it takes, I know I have him on my backside, pushing me to get to that point.”

Like father, like son: Antron Brown and son Anson, who is following in his father’s drag racing footsteps. Photo: Antron Brown’s official Facebook page.

His family’s future also figured into Brown’s decision. His oldest son, Anson, soon turns 16 years old and is heavily involved in NHRA’s Jr. Dragster program, as are Brown’s other children. It’s likely his son some day will follow in his father’s footsteps.

But don’t think that the elder Brown, who turns 44 in March, is ready to hang up his firesuit just yet.

“I’ll stop driving when I feel I’m not capable to drive no more and I’m not having fun no more,” he said. “That’s nowhere in the near future. I know I’m going to drive for at least another 15 years.”

Heading into this season, Brown will retain current sponsorship from Mac Tools and Toyota, as well as associate sponsorship from Hangsterfer’s on his 11,000-horsepower dragster. Global Electronic Technology also has signed on as a new associate sponsor in a multiyear deal.

“It’s no secret this has been a goal of Antron’s for a while now, and I’m happy to be able to provide the tools and resources needed for him to be able to successfully branch out on his own,” Schumacher said in a team media release. “It’s important for me to see my team members grow.”

* * * * * * * * * * *

Brown burst upon the NHRA scene atop a Pro Stock Motorcycle in 1998, earning 16 wins over the next 10 seasons. He joined DSR in 2002 and made the switch to Top Fuel in 2008.

Since then, Brown – who now resides in suburban Indianapolis – has gone on to become one of the winningest drivers in Top Fuel history with 50 national event victories, as well as three championships between 2012 and 2015.

That performance recently earned him AutoWeek magazine’s Top Fuel Driver of the Decade.

Brown also announced Tuesday he is reuniting with former crew chief Brian Corradi, who returns to the team after spending the last two seasons as co-crew chief for 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force. Corradi will share crew chief duties for Brown with NHRA veteran Mark Oswald.

* * * * * * * * * * *

When he won his first title in 2012, Brown became the first African-American world champion in Top Fuel history. He hopes his move to ownership will continue to grow NHRA’s already significant focus on opportunities for minorities and females in the sport.

“I think it’s important across all spectrums, period,” Brown said. “I think a lot of fans see me, and they can relate to me because I am them. I came from a good, hard-working family in Chesterfield, New Jersey, which is right next door to Trenton.

“Everybody in my family from my great uncles to my grandpop made their own way, had their own businesses, from swimming pool to paving to septic tank businesses.

“One thing my grandpop said to me is the world is wide open. He said, ‘Son, you can have anything you want in this world, as long as you put the effort and put the work towards it.’ If people can resonate with my story from where I came from and where I’m heading, I hope it gives them this energy, this ray of hope that ‘if Antron Brown can do this, so can I.’

“That’s the only way for motorsports to grow. It’s for the young ones to get interested in it and I want them to know the opportunity is there. All they have to do is take it.”

* * * * * * * * * * *

Brown will be among more than 30 Top Fuel and Funny Car drivers who will take part in this weekend’s annual preseason “spring training” test at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, in preparation for the season-opening Lucas Oil Winternationals Feb. 6-9 in Pomona, California.

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