TriStar Motorsports announces several changes to its corporate and four-team Xfinity Series lineup

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A busy off-season continues for TriStar Motorsports, which announced several personnel changes to the growing four-team Xfinity Series operation.

Here’s a rundown of who’s new, who has returned and who will have new duties for the 2015 season, per a team media release:

* Former TriStar general manager Keith Barnwell has returned to the team as the new Executive Vice President of Motorsports for 2015. Barnwell has a Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 win as a spotter for Jamie McMurray in addition to two XFINITY Series Championships.

* NASCAR veteran Rick Viers joins as the organization’s new general manager. Viers has a long and colorful history as both a crew chief and tire changer. He was with Harry Gant when he won four races in a row, as well as was part of Dale Earnhardt’s team when he won the Brickyard 400.

* Bruce Cook is the new crew chief for the No. 8 Toyota Camry driven by Blake Koch. Cook’s previous career stops include JR Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing and Kevin Harvick Inc.

* Veteran crew chief Wes Ward moves to a new role as shop foreman. Among drivers Ward worked with previously as a crew chief are Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowski and NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett.

* Eddie Pardue is the new crew chief for Cale Conley’s No. 14 Toyota Camry for 2015. Pardue was previously TriStar’s competition director. Pardue’s previous crew chief stints included working with Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth and the late Jason Leffler.

* NASCAR Veteran Mike Bliss extends his partnership with TriStar Motorsports for a fifth straight season. Paul Clapprood returns as Bliss’ crew chief. The pair come into 2015 with 133 starts together.

* Greg Conner remains as crew chief for the No. 44 Toyota Camry for a third straight season. Announcements of who will drive the No. 44, as well as sponsorship, is expected to be announced in the next few weeks.

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Attention NASCAR teams: IMSA drivers available for Daytona!

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NASCAR will be making its debut on the Daytona International Speedway road course next month, and there’s a big fan who’d like to join the historic weekend.

This fan actually has impressive credentials, too — a few thousand laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile layout that annually plays host to the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

In 2014, the winning GTLM team in the sports car endurance classic included IMSA Porsche driver Nick Tandy, who rabidly has followed NASCAR for more than 30 years since growing up in England.

So why not try racing NASCAR? Especially because Tandy has the weekend of Aug. 14-16 free.

He’s not picky, either — offering up his services on Twitter (as well as those of Porsche teammate Earl Bamber) for an ARCA, Xfinity, trucks or Cup ride.

Tandy’s affinity for American stock-car racing runs deep.

His first trip to the World Center of Racing was as a fan attending the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2008. During Rolex testing in January, Tandy, 35, said he hadn’t missed a Cup race on TV in 15 years.

Among his favorite NASCAR drivers: the Earnhardts, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. When IMSA ran the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014, Tandy stayed a few extra days at the Brickyard and bought Kyle Busch gear for himself and his children.

He briefly took the stage during a NASCAR weekend last October. After IMSA’s season finale at Road Atlanta, Tandy made a few demonstration laps and a burnout in his No. 911 Porsche before the Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He also has some experience in stock cars, having raced Modified-type grass-roots series on England’s quarter-mile short tracks.

Couple that with a Daytona road course record that includes two consecutive podium class finishes (including last Saturday) and a sports car resume with 13 IMSA victories and an overall win in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans … and maybe a NASCAR team should take a look.

And Tandy isn’t the only IMSA driver who likely would be available.

Corvette driver Jordan Taylor, who won the 2017 Rolex 24 overall title with Jeff Gordon as a teammate (and the inspiration for his Rodney Sandstrom persona), also tweeted his availability for the weekend on the high banks.

Sports car veteran Andy Lally, a GTD driver with multiple class wins in the Rolex 24 as well as 38 Cup starts (he was the 2011 rookie of the season in NASCAR’s premier series), also hung out his shingle.

There also is AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth (who just won at Daytona last Saturday), the Englishman who teamed with Kyle Busch at the Rolex 24 in January and made an Xfinity start at Mid-Ohio last year with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Many sports car drivers (such as Taylor) already live in Florida, and many are hunkering down in the Sunshine State with IMSA returning to action at Daytona last week and Sebring International Raceway next week. Because of COVID-19-related travel concerns and restrictions, several IMSA stars who live outside the country are riding out the pandemic within a few hours of Daytona with nothing to do.

Why not a weekend at the World Center of Racing?

Over the years, scads of “road-course ringers” (including some Formula One veterans) have tried their hands in stock cars at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International.

How about considering the many sports car drivers who already have reached victory lane at Daytona by making a few right-hand turns, too?