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Asanka Gurusinha appointed head coach of Nigeria

Published in Cricket
Monday, 30 November 2020 21:51

Nigeria have signed up Asanka Gurusinha, the former Sri Lanka batsman and manager of the national team, as their head coach and high-performance director. In his new job, starting this month, Gurusinha will also the training of local coaches, with the Nigeria Cricket Federation (NCF) moving to handle "tremendous growth and development in all areas of the sport".

Nigeria have been on the rise in the last year and a half, with appearances at the Under-19 World Cup earlier this year as well as at the 2019 T20 World Cup qualifier - while the women's team played the World Cup qualifier in Zimbabwe in 2019 - and are now aiming higher.

"The appointment of Asanka marks another milestone in this administration's desire to raise the standard of the game in the country both at the elite and development level," Yahaya Adam Ukwenya, president of the NCF, said in a statement. "Internally, his appointment will greatly impart on our development structure as we look to begin our Accelerated Growth Program.

"On the big stage, Nigeria can no longer take a passing interest in world cricket, we should be able to compete at all levels we play and not just make up the numbers."

Gurusinha, now 54, represented Sri Lanka as a player from 1985 to 1996, most memorably at the 1996 World Cup, where he scored 307 runs from six innings at an average of 51.16 as Sri Lanka won the trophy for the first - and so far only - time. Overall, he played 41 Tests (2452 runs at an average of 38.92, seven centuries and eight half-centuries) and 147 ODIs (3902 runs at 28.27, two centuries and 22 half-centuries). He also picked up 46 international wickets with his part-time medium pace.

A Level 3 coach, Gurusinha has more recently been cricket manager and selector for the Sri Lanka men's team and also a consultant with Cricket Australia.

NCF said that Gurusinha would be officially unveiled as the new coach at a ceremony in the capital city of Abuja on December 8, with the national team members and federation officials in attendance.

Though India are the team with a host of bowling problems right now, Australia are not without their own concerns. Chief among these is Mitchell Starc, who has taken 1 for 147 from 18 overs across the opening two ODI games as India's batsmen found him somewhat easier to line up than his pace counterparts Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins.

With Cummins being rested from the remainder of the white-ball games, Starc's role may need to change according to the tactical requirements of the captain Aaron Finch, but for the most part the captain is understanding of a fast bowler who has been among the world's pre-eminent white ball merchants for most of the past decade.

This is not to say Starc has not fallen away in ODI performance in a similar manner to India's new ball ace Jasprit Bumrah in the 18 months since last year's World Cup, because he has. In that period since the Cup, Starc has claimed just 12 wickets at 54.25 in 11 matches, while costing 6.28 runs an over across series against India, South Africa, New Zealand and England.

"I think he's going okay. He hasn't been at his very best," Finch said. "You have to understand his standards are a lot higher than what you expect from most other people because of how dominant he's been over the last 8-9 years, especially in the white-ball formats. He's been super.

"So he'd love to be swinging the ball and getting it right early on but the reality is when you're defending big totals and you're playing against good players, they are coming hard at you. So, there'll be conversations had today about what we can do slightly different. Whether it's a tactical thing or when we're using him through the innings. We'll chat about that today. Definitely no panic stations here from my point of view."

The flipside, however, is Starc's evolution as a Test bowler, for he has over a similar timeframe enjoyed the most fruitful passage of his long-form career. In eight Tests since late January 2019, he has scooped no fewer than 45 wickets at 18.42, with a stunning strike rate of 34.8 balls per wicket. Finch acknowledged that it was easier for Cummins and Hazlewood to flip from the IPL to white-ball duty at home, whereas Starc prepared by loading up on overs in the Sheffield Shield for New South Wales ahead of the Test schedule.

"I thought our energy and our intent was great. Moises and Smudge took a couple of absolute hangers that turned the game really. I think the way that we've bowled through the middle overs has been very impressive." Aaron Finch

"At times it can be easier to go from T20 back to 50-over cricket just because you've almost got the intent and then you can just rein it in a little bit more. He's still bowled really well in the Shield in the first couple of rounds," Finch said.

"From my point of view, and chatting to other guys about his technique, and little things that his fellow bowlers and the fast bowling cartel really monitor, they seem to think he's going really well. So it's just a matter of time. There's nowhere to hide in ODI cricket when you're playing on some really flat wickets with quality opposition."

More broadly, Finch reckoned Australia's bowling and fielding had improved from game one to game two, noting the outstanding catches from Steven Smith ad Moises Henriques. He was equally happy with Henriques' canny overs of medium pace through the middle of the Indian innings on Sunday night.

"Our fielding definitely wasn't up to scratch in the first game," he said. "A few chances went down. In the second game, I thought it was a lot better. I thought our energy and our intent was great. Moises and Smudge took a couple of absolute hangers that turned the game really. Virat [Kohli] goes on and gets 130-140-150 or Shreyas [Iyer] goes on and gets a big score and they're probably cantering towards 390. So, I think the way that we've bowled through the middle overs has been very impressive.

"India have come ultra-hard at the start. Obviously, like you'd expect chasing big totals and probably we've gone a little bit defensive really early. That happens. The way that [Adam] Zampa has bowled has been outstanding. Moises bowled seven overs the other night. They were brilliant overs to get out of him through that middle period. It was a really simple game plan and we adapted really well to that wicket as well. So, yeah all in all they've been pretty good performances."

As for the replacement of David Warner, Finch said he would weigh up the balance between promoting a current member of the side like Marnus Labuschagne and also leaving the middle order untouched, after it functioned so well given a strong platform in each of the opening two games.

ALSO READ: Labuschagne puts hand up to open in Warner's absence

"The middle order's been functioning really well the last little while, I think it played well in England. And it's done a really good job in this series as well," Finch said. "There's a kind of not wanting to do that. Marnus is a class player. If we go that way great. Alex Carey the role of him and Maxy [Glenn Maxwell] at six and seven has been really crucial and provides a bit more freedom for that middle order to go about their business and be ultra-aggressive as well. They're a few reasons why I wouldn't like to do it but there's still a lot of good players there we can choose to do that role."

Left-hand, right-hand combinations are among the issues that Finch is pondering. "It definitely has its advantages at times," he said. "With Davey and I in particular we're so different styles of play. Whether LH-RH it doesn't make too much of a difference. As an example, if you use [Justin] Langer and [Matthew] Hayden as an opening combination.

"They played so differently that you had to bowl totally different to each of them anyway, regardless of whether they're both left-handed, both right or left-right. I think that's what complements opening partnerships than just that left-right combo."

Rams' McVay 'never' considered benching Goff

Published in Breaking News
Monday, 30 November 2020 19:02

Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay acknowledged Monday that his willingness to call out Jared Goff after a 23-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers was a departure from his routine postgame comments, but McVay expressed confidence that his fifth-year quarterback can take it.

"I wouldn't say things if I didn't know there was broad shoulders to be able to handle it," McVay said, adding, "maybe while it was a little bit different approach, I think it was something that was honest that I know he's capable of correcting.

"If anything, I think it's a reflection of the confidence I have, because I can be demanding of him in some of those settings, whether it be publicly or privately with our team."

After Sunday's loss to the injury-plagued Niners, McVay did not shoulder the blame -- a typical move for the fourth-year coach -- but instead said bluntly, "Our quarterback has got to take better care of the football."

Goff had two passes intercepted and lost a fumble against the Niners, who have defeated the Rams in four straight games and also handed them their first loss at SoFi Stadium.

It also was the second time in the past four games that Goff has produced multiple turnovers in a loss. In Week 8, Goff had four turnovers -- two interceptions and two fumbles -- in a 28-17 loss to the Dolphins.

McVay said he did not consider benching Goff, who has four seasons remaining on an extension that guarantees $110 million, in either turnover-riddled loss.

"If I thought it was going to be the best thing to just take a deep breath and step away, then I'd say maybe, but not in either of those situations because both of those reflected kind of having an opportunity where there was enough plays made to get back in it," McVay said. "So [Sunday], that was never part of the consideration, nor was it really for Miami."

The Rams are 7-4 and remain in the hunt to win the NFC West as they prepare to play the 6-5 Arizona Cardinals on Sunday at State Farm Stadium.

This season, Goff has completed 67.2% of his passes (Ranks 15th) and has passed for 16 touchdowns (17th). Goff also has lost 14 turnovers -- 10 interceptions and four fumbles -- which ties him with Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins for the second-most turnovers in the NFL. Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz has lost 18 turnovers, the most in the league.

Munster extended their lead at the top of Pro14 Conference B to 16 points with an eight-try dismantling of Zebre.

Dan Goggin, Damian De Allende and Darren Sweetnam all crossed in the first half.

And Munster were also awarded a penalty try as they claimed the bonus-point inside the opening 40 minutes.

JJ Hanrahan capped a fine display with a score of his own before Sean French, Craig Casey and Thomas Ahern rounded off the scoring.

The province retain their undefeated start to the season and remain in total control of the conference, with Scarlets their closest competitors.

Zebre are rooted to the bottom of Conference A with just one win from their opening eight matches.

Goggin's opener came after eight minutes, gathering Hanrahan's chip, before South African World Cup winner De Allende barged over for his first score in red.

A penalty try following a maul infringement extended the lead, allowing Sweetnam to bag the bonus-point score before the break, collecting Goggin's pass after the centre made the initial break.

Fly-half Hanrahan enjoyed a stand-out evening in Limerick and was on hand to finish a flowing Munster move to grab his side's fifth try after the interval.

Academy player French, introduced as a first half substitute, was next to cross the whitewash for a debut score before replacements Casey and Ahern got in on the act in the final five minutes to move their side beyond the half-century of points.

Munster: Gallagher; Nash, Goggin, De Allende, Sweetnam; Hanrahan, McCarthy; J Wycherley, Marshall, Archer; F Wycherley, Holland (capt); O'Donoghue, Cloete, Coombes.

Replacements: Barron, O'Connor, Knox, Ahern, Daly, Casey, Healy, French.

Zebre: Laloifi; D'Onofrio, Bisegni (capt), Lucchin, Bruno; Pescetto, Fusco; Brugnara, Manfredi, Tarus; Venditti, Krumov; Kearney, Mordacci, Masselli

Replacements: Ceciliani, Lovotti, Nocera, Chianucci, Fabiani, Marinaro, Forcucci, Elliott

Ulster went top of Pro14 Conference A after an eighth victory out of eight this season against Edinburgh.

The visitors raced into a 19-point lead as Stewart Moore, John Andrew and John Cooney crossed.

Jack Blain registered a converted try before and after half-time to reduce Edinburgh's arrears.

Jordi Murphy ensured a bonus-point win for Ulster before Cooney got his second try and Andrew added two more as Dan McFarland's side moved above Leinster.

Leinster trail by three points but have a game in hand while Edinburgh are fifth in Conference B with two wins from seven matches.

Ulster must have thought they had put Edinburgh to bed midway through the first half. Their domination was complete.

The first try came as early as the fourth minute when Andrew and Cooney scampered away up the right with the scrum-half putting Moore away for the score. Cooney then made it 7-0. For Edinburgh, it was a dismal beginning. For Ulster, it was probably what they were expecting.

Just before the end of the first quarter, Ulster struck again, Andrew ploughing over from close range. Ulster's power was too much. Five minutes later, they got their third score. Their forwards having taken them downfield, Cooney then sniped his way over from close range. Edinburgh's defence was soft and dozing. Cooney banged over the conversion for good measure.

At that point, it was looking like a rout. The last time Ulster were in Edinburgh they delivered a terrific come-from-behind victory in the semi-final of the last season's Pro14. This one looked like being a pillar-to-post win. It was, but not entirely in the way we thought.

Just as soon as Ulster had built a lead, they fell off the pace of the game and allowed Edinburgh to clamber their way back into it. Blain came in on a sharp line off James Johnstone to score, Chamberlain converting.

That was on the half-hour. Just after the break, Blain scored again, accepting an offload from Eroni Sau from close range. Chamberlain made it 19-14 with the boot.

Edinburgh thought they had wiped out the deficit altogether soon after when a Chamberlain penalty came slapping back off Ulster's left-hand upright. Jamie Farndale beat Cooney to the loose ball to touch down but the score was ruled out. Farndale was ahead of Chamberlain on the point of contact. A sickener for the home side.

Ulster sickened them further within minutes. These days, it's almost harder not to score from a driven 5m lineout than it is too score. Sure enough, when Ulster got field position they executed. Murphy piled through for the bonus point and Cooney made it an eight-point game with the conversion. To make things worse, Bill Mata, not long on the field as a replacement, was binned.

That try, on top of their own near-miss from Farndale, virtually did for Edinburgh, but there was a flourish from the Ulstermen before the end. Ian Madigan started it with a half-break and fend of Luke Crosbie, before offloading out the side door to Sam Carter.

The lock galloped on, drew the cover and put in Cooney for a lovely try that settled it once and for all. With the extra two from Cooney, Ulster were back to where they were before with a 19-point lead. Edinburgh desperately need the return of their international cavalry before their season turns to mush for good.

Ulster hammered home their superiority again with another driven lineout. Like shooting fish in a barrel, Andrew was the man again. And again. The hooker completed his hat-trick in the last play. Another battering of the Edinburgh line, another example of Ulster's superior muscle and another try. A once tight affair had become a 40-point shellacking.

Frankly, the final whistle was a blessing for Edinburgh.

Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill: "We had a poor start. We got ourselves back into it. We just couldn't sustain it. If we had got Jamie Farndale's try, if it wasn't offside, maybe it would've been slightly different.

"Once the momentum turned, we weren't strong enough to cope with it. Ultimately, they were just better than us. We've just got to keep working at our game. We haven't got the depth. We're missing so many players. We're missing a pack of forwards and some."

Edinburgh: Blain, Sau, Johnstone, Dean, Farndale, Chamberlain, Pyrgos, Schoeman, Cherry, Atalifo, Ferreira, Davidson, Bradbury, Crosbie, Miller.

Replacements: Coombes for Farndale (70), Shiel for Pyrgos (68), Grahamslaw for Schoeman (77), Willemse for Cherry (65), Gamble for Atalifo (70), Hodgson for Ferreira (54), Boyle for Crosbie (70), Mata for Miller (49). Sin Bin: Mata (60).

Ulster: Lowry, Faddes, Hume, S. Moore, Lyttle, Madigan, Cooney, Warwick, Andrew, M. Moore, A. O'Connor, Carter, Reidy, Murphy, Coetzee.

Replacements: Sexton for Lyttle (8), Johnston for Madigan (68), Shanahan for Cooney (68), McCall for Warwick (48), Milasinovich for M. Moore (50), D. O'Connor for A. O'Connor (64), McCann for Reidy (68), Roberts for Coetzee (74).

Young On Justin Grant: ‘He Made RAMS Relevant’

Published in Racing
Monday, 30 November 2020 15:00

INDIANAPOLIS — RAMS Racing owner Rick Young admitted Monday morning that he was as surprised as many fans were when it was revealed that Justin Grant would move to RMS Racing next season.

However, overriding much of that surprise — and disappointment, Young added — was a sense of pride and gratitude for the two years that Grant spent with his operation.

Without Grant’s impressive performances, Young told Sprint Car & Midget he doesn’t believe his team would be viewed the way it is in the current landscape: as a proven contender and with top-flight cars.

“What I want people to know is this: as tremendously disappointed as we are that Justin won’t be driving our cars next year, we’re so appreciative and owe him a debt of gratitude for all the work he put in to making our team relevant over the last two years,” Young said. “We put a great deal together for Justin; it was one that worked for me, worked for Jeff (Taylor, of team sponsor Rockwell Security), and it worked for Justin. Justin was his own crew chief and that’s what he wanted. When we put this deal together, he wanted to be a crew chief and wanted to have complete control over the midget operation to be able to do it how he wanted. And that’s what we gave him.

“There’s good and bad in that, right? The good is that Justin Grant made RAMS Racing relevant. The bad is, obviously, that he’s leaving for another opportunity,” Young continued. “He showed that we had great equipment and if you could wheel a race car, you could win in our equipment. With that said, mine and Jeff’s phones have rung off the hook over the last 72 hours as this news and what was happening began to creep out. A lot of talented people want to drive our race cars and that’s exciting for us.

“You’re never going to replace Justin Grant; he’s one of the best there is, and while we want whoever comes next to go out and beat him on the race track, he’ll always be a part of the RAMS Racing family.”

While Grant put Young on the map as a team owner with his preliminary-night victory during the 2019 Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals, Young was quick to point out his pedigree of success goes back further than that.

Rick Young. (Jacob Seelman photo)

“I think people forget sometimes that RAMS Racing didn’t start with Justin Grant,” he noted. “Our first foray into national midgets was actually with Logan Seavey in POWRi competition in 2017, the year that Logan won the championship. That car was entered under Austin Brown Racing, but I owned the car and paid for it that season that Logan drove to the title in the No. 4a. Prior to that, we had the first Ecotec D2 midgets in the country, pretty much, and Dillon Silverman (now an engineer at Stewart-Haas Racing) was part of the launch of the ASCS midget division on the West Coast in one of our cars. We’ve been around and we’re not planning on going anywhere.

“The way we came out of the blocks at the Chili Bowl (in 2019), it kind of made everyone go, ‘Well, who the hell are these guys?’ But we’ve always had success in whatever we’ve decided to do and we plan to continue that tradition into the future.”

Young also noted Grant will still be involved with RAMS Racing in the lead up to the Chili Bowl Jan. 11-16, where Young plans to field “two or three entries” at the River Spirit Expo Center in Tulsa, Okla.

“Our relationship with Justin Grant is not over,” he said. “Justin is going to get our cars ready for the Chili Bowl and I think some of that is out of him feeling like he owes that to us to get them ready, which I appreciate given the timing of how all this came about. And then I’m sure we’ll end up doing some stuff with him within the sprint car deal that he’s working on.

“But in reality, I think what truly happened was that Justin doesn’t make a living driving a midget. He makes his living driving sprint cars and champ cars,” Young pointed out. “And with that being said, there will be times in his career when one of those will be more difficult than it has been the last two years. Those times are when he needs to focus more on that than on the midget, and showing up with his helmet and hopping in somebody else’s race car is a hell of a lot easier than driving the hauler, working on the midget and then showing up at the track to race it as well.

“I want to see Justin win every time he’s in a race car, unless there is a RAMS Racing car starting right next to him. In that case, he can finish second (laughter). But we’re happy for him. We really are.”

Despite Grant’s sudden departure, will there be a RAMS Racing entry on the race track next year, at least for some of the marquee USAC national midget events on the 2021 calendar?

“Absolutely,” Young said. “There’s not even a question about that. We’re not going anywhere. We were all in with Justin, so everything we had in that deal was at his disposal, but going forward we look at Indiana Midget Week, the BC39, and events like those as places you’ll see RAMS Racing back out there.

“You haven’t seen the last of us and, going forward, we expect to continue contending for wins.”

Troy Coughlin Jr. Stepping Up To Pro Stock

Published in Racing
Monday, 30 November 2020 15:20

DELAWARE, Ohio – With Jeg Coughlin Jr. ending his NHRA Pro Stock career at the conclusion of this season, Troy Coughlin Jr. will step up to take over the JEGS Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro tuned by Rickie Jones.

Beginning in Junior Dragsters, Troy Coughlin Jr. has raced in Super Comp, Super Gas, Top Dragster, several E.T Bracket cars, Pro Mod, Top Alcohol Dragster, Top Fuel and now Pro Stock. He won the Division 3 Super Gas title in 2013, the North Central region championship in Top Alcohol Dragster in 2018, and the East region Top Alcohol Dragster crown in 2019. He has 10 divisional/regional wins and eight more national event trophies.

He’ll now take his talents to the Pro Stock class, where the Coughlin family has enjoyed a multitude of success through the years.

“Competing in Pro Stock is who we are,” Troy Coughlin Jr. said. “My dad, his dad, my uncle Jeg, it’s a pretty incredible legacy to follow and I couldn’t be more humbled and honored to move it forward.

“Drag racing is a unique part of what keeps our family together. It’s what we talk about at the dinner table. It’s what drives our customer base at JEGS. It’s everything for us. I think it’s really important to have a JEGS car in the professional ranks to constantly remind everyone we love it as much as they do. I’m so lucky to have this chance.”

Troy Coughlin Jr. is the latest in a long line of Coughlin family members to compete in the NHRA.

Just one year after the inception of the Pro Stock class 50 years ago, JEGS Automotive joined the battle with company founder Jeg Coughlin Sr. grinding gears in his JEGS-sponsored car. Troy Coughlin Sr., one of Jeg Coughlin Sr.’s four sons who now own and operate JEGS, was next to contest the factory hot rod class, running various yellow-and-black hot rods from 1994-2004. Then came Jeg Coughlin Jr., who won five world titles and 65 races in the class during a 24-year professional career before retiring at the end of this year.

“I’ve been lucky to race so many different cars through the years but nothing has been as challenging as Pro Stock,” Troy Coughlin Jr. said. “It’s a constant challenge to try and make a perfect run each time down the track. I try not to set any expectations but I think we all know great things are within our grasp. We should continue to be major players in the class.”

Like Troy Coughlin Jr., Jones was born into the sport, following his father Rick Jones from drag strip to drag strip as a child. The elder Jones found success in the IHRA Mountain Motor class and later in Pro Stock Truck (where Troy Coughlin Jr.’s uncles Mike and John competed), both as a tuner and driver.

At the same time, he started building racecars, and his creations have since claimed numerous world titles, most notably with multi-time champions Warren Johnson, Greg Anderson, Jason Line and Erica Enders.

Jones would later become a competitor himself, racing in Pro Stock and Pro Mod from 2008-’13, before joining his father on the tuning side of the equation. He’s spent the last seven years working on the cars of Enders, Jeg Coughlin Jr., Aaron Stanfield and now Troy Coughlin Jr., who is three years his junior. As a side business, he also helps a variety of sportsman racers tune their cars.

“Having Rickie as the crew chief is the best-case scenario for me,” said Troy Coughlin Jr. “In testing he was always real calm on the radio, which I really liked, and during the season he was someone I could talk to about anything in regards to the runs I was making. He knows Pro Stock as both a driver and a crew chief, plus he drove in Pro Mod too, so we’re a lot alike in many ways. We’ve been down the same roads.”

SPEARS Pro Late Model Series Launching Next Year

Published in Racing
Monday, 30 November 2020 15:55

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – The SPEARS Pro Late Model Series will make its debut next year with 10 races across the West Coast.

Nine of the 10 races will share dates with the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series, with live streaming provided by SPEARSRacing.TV and national television coverage on MAVTV.

“Both the competitors and sponsors have been pushing for us to sanction a pro late model series and everything has come together for the 2021 season,” stated the SRL’s Larry Collins. “Many of our sponsors and media partners have jumped on board to make 2021 a big year for the pro late models, including the Sigma Performance Services winner’s bonus to guarantee a minimum of $3,000 to win at each series event.”

The SPEARS Pro Late Model Series presented by Sigma Performance Services will feature the basic pro late model rules established throughout the state, with the series engine rules for each race following whatever the local track engine rules are for the division.

“SPS is proud to be part of this exciting new venture with the SRL and the pro late model class,” said SPS’ Joe Farre. “As a long-time competitor, owner and contributor to the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series we have developed a strong appreciation for the quality and integrity of racing that Larry, Brian and the whole organization has brought to west coast racing.  SPS is proud of the work that we have done to support the Pro Late Model class within the west, and we feel strongly that racer’s need a place, and a class of racing, that provides an affordable path to competitive racer’s that want to progress through the ranks of late model stock car racing.  We cannot think of a better group of people to organize and lead this new opportunity for west coast racers.”

In 2021, the SPEARS Pro Late Model Series presented by Sigma Performance Services will join the SRL’s other two series, the SPEARS Southwest Tour Series and Spears Manufacturing Modified Series presented by Lucas Oil at host race tracks All-American Speedway, Kern County Raceway, Stockton 99 and Irwindale Speedway.

All three series are eligible for drivers 14 years old and older.

Marque events for the SPEARS Pro Late Model Series include the $15,000-to-win pro late model race during the All-Star Showdown at Irwindale Speedway’s third-mile oval on Feb. 6  and the $7,600-to win-race on Kern County Raceway half-mile on June 26.

Corey LaJoie Joins Spire Motorsports

Published in Racing
Monday, 30 November 2020 16:06

CONCORD, N.C. – Spire Motorsports announced Monday that Corey LaJoie will drive the team’s No. 7 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE in the NASCAR Cup Series beginning next year.

It was also revealed LaJoie has inked a multi-year agreement to drive for the Concord, N.C., organization beginning with the Daytona 500 at Daytona Int’l Speedway on February 14.

LaJoie, 29, is a third-generation racer whose father and grandfather are members of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame. He spent the last two seasons at the wheel of Go Fas Racing’s No. 32 NASCAR Cup Series entry where he earned three top-10 finishes and a team/career best sixth-place finish at Daytona Int’l Speedway.

LaJoie earned wins in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East (six victories) and the ARCA Menards Series (three wins) on his way to the NASCAR Cup Series. Brief stops in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series led LaJoie into the NASCAR Cup Series full time the past two seasons.

“The next chapter of my racing career provides me with a unique opportunity to play a key role in working with a motivated leadership group to build a competitive NASCAR Cup Series team from the ground up,” said LaJoie. “I’m thankful to work directly with Spire Motorsports co-owners Jeff Dickerson and T.J. Puchyr and all of our partners as we build on the proud and competitive tradition associated with the No. 7. We expect to be a force in the garage for years to come.”

Spire Motorsports announced an agreement to purchase the assets of Leavine Family Racing in August and completed the sale Monday. The team is expanding to a two-car operation and will compete with the Nos. 7 and 77.

Crew chiefs for both programs and a driver announcement for the No. 77 will be released at a later date.

“Corey LaJoie is a talented young driver and has proven that he wants to get better every time he sits in the race car,” said Puchyr. “He wants to better himself and is willing to go to great lengths to make it happen. That’s the same philosophy Jeff (Dickerson) and I subscribe to in all of our business ventures. He fits very well with our group and will obviously play a critical role in the success of our team as we continue to grow and develop. We’re going to build this together and Corey will be the anchor.”

Following completion of the LFR acquisition, Spire Motorsports will relocate from its current facility in Mooresville, N.C., and make its home in Concord, N.C., at the former shop of 1992 NASCAR Cup Series Champion Alan Kulwicki. The team chose the No. 7 with permission from NASCAR and Tommy Baldwin Jr., with a nod to Kulwicki and later Geoff Bodine who purchased the team from Kulwicki’s family following his death in 1993.

“I’ve been an Alan Kulwicki fan my entire life,” stated LaJoie. “To compete with the No. 7 on the roof and door is an honor for any driver at any level, but to have it here on our car in the NASCAR Cup Series is taken very seriously.”

“We’re thrilled to pay tribute to Alan Kulwicki and Geoff Bodine by running the No. 7 and racing out of that shop,” added Puchyr. “Alan had a unique way about him and took a very unconventional route to winning a championship. Everyone knows the story. He didn’t have a ton of money and did more with so much less than many of the most well-heeled teams of that day. We see a lot of parallels between Spire Motorsports and Alan’s approach. At the same time, I grew up in the northeast and the No. 7 was synonymous with the Baldwin family so, it’s a proud moment to tie all that history together and compliment the No. 77 we’ve run the last two years.”

Dave Mac Motorsports Fills Four Chili Bowl Seats

Published in Racing
Monday, 30 November 2020 17:00

BIXBY, Okla. – Dave Mac Motorsports revealed its first four drivers for the 35th Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals on Monday night, featuring continuity from its outdoor program this season.

Leading the way for the Toyota-powered team are Oklahomans Ace McCarthy and Noah Gass, both of whom drove for Dave Mac Motorsports in USAC and POWRi competition through the year.

Michael Faccinto and Jace McIntosh, who each wheeled a Dave McIntosh-owned entry during the Chili Bowl this past January, will also return to the squad.

Faccinto will wheel the team’s flagship No. 08 entry, with McIntosh at the controls of the No. 08j. Gass will drive the No. 20g and McCarthy will carry his familiar No. 28 during the Jan. 11-16 event.

“We’re excited to put our first four guys out there and glad to have them all back with us for this year’s Chili Bowl,” McIntosh said when reached by phone Monday night. “It’s a lot of consistency; all of these guys have raced with us before and know what we do and how we operate, so we believe it won’t take much to get them all in a place where they can contend throughout the week. We’re excited, for sure.”

McCarthy earned two wins, four top fives and 10 top 10s in 20 feature starts this season en route to a third-place finish in the POWRi national midget standings with Dave Mac Motorsports this year.

He has yet to make the Saturday finale in four attempts at Tulsa (Okla.) Expo Raceway, with an 11th-place finish in the B main in 2018 standing as McCarthy’s best effort so far. He was in a C main this year.

Gass made his Chili Bowl debut this year, but it was short lived, with struggles on his preliminary night leading to a DNS in the O main Saturday. He earned one top-five finish en route to 11th in POWRi points.

Faccinto is a two-time feature starter at the Chili Bowl, with a best result of 16th in 2019, and likely would have made the Saturday field again this year. However, he withdrew from competition after using a racial slur in a post-race interview on his preliminary night, where he finished on the podium.

Michael Faccinto will return to Dave Mac Motorsports in January at the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals. (Brendon Bauman photo)

McIntosh noted that he and Faccinto have “unfinished business” together, leading to their reunion.

“I wanted to have him back and I believe he’s learned from the situation that he went through in January,” McIntosh noted. “He’s a great driver and he’s proven his character by how he handled his situation at the Chili Bowl and everything he’s done since then. We’re glad to bring him back on board with us for this year’s event and believe he can pick up with us right where we left off.”

Jace McIntosh, the eldest son of Dave McIntosh, made his Chili Bowl debut in January and will be back for his second straight run at the Super Bowl of Midget Racing in a family-owned entry.

Jace McIntosh finished 13th in an M main during this year’s Chili Bowl.

Dave Mac Motorsports plans to field six cars for the 35th Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals, with the final two drivers for the team to be announced shortly.

While that unofficially elevates his operation – led by crew chief Cody Cordell – to “super team status,” McIntosh didn’t want to label his squad as one of the powerhouses of the River Spirit Expo Center.

That designation comes with results, he noted.

“It’s not much of a super team, I don’t think,” a humble McIntosh said. “It’s just a bunch of racers, man. We just all want to go racing and have a good time doing it.”


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