NASCAR: GameStop in for 10 races on Erik Jones’ XFINITY ride with Gibbs

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Erik Jones’ part-time drive this year for Joe Gibbs Racing in the NASCAR XFINITY Series will feature a familiar sponsor.

After supporting Sprint Cup veteran Matt Kenseth over the last two years of NXS competition, GameStop will now back Jones and the No. 20 JGR Toyota Camry in 2015 for 10 events.

Those events include the NXS season opener at Daytona on Feb. 21, the two races at both Texas and Charlotte, and single races at Fontana, Bristol, Richmond, Phoenix, and Homestead-Miami.

Along with his NXS schedule, Jones will also compete full-time this year in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports. He made three NXS starts in the No. 20 Toyota last year with finishes of seventh at Chicago, eighth at Bristol, and sixth at Phoenix.

“As a gamer, I’ve always followed the cars GameStop puts on the track each year,” Jones said in a release. “It’s so cool that they change their paint scheme for every race, and they’ve featured many of my favorite games. It’s exciting to have the opportunity to combine my love for gaming with my career as a NASCAR driver.

“I know we’ll be competitive each week with the GameStop Toyota, and I’m confident we’ll be able to get us a win, or a few, this season.”

Mike Wheeler, former race engineer for Denny Hamlin on JGR’s No. 11 Sprint Cup team, will now take over as Jones’ crew chief on the team’s No. 20 NXS program.

“Erik is a great addition to our program and will be a great representative of GameStop,” team president J.D. Gibbs said in the same release. “We also have Mike Wheeler stepping up to lead the No. 20 Toyota team as crew chief. It will be exciting to watch those two together as they run up front and contend for wins each time Erik is in the No. 20 Camry.”

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?