While NASCAR celebrates Michael Jordan’s entry as the Cup owner, his arrival comes at the expense of another team.
Jordan and Denny Hamlin have purchased the Germain Racing charter, marking the end of that single-seater team when the season concludes on November 8 at the Phoenix Raceway.
Seven races remain for Germain Racing, Ty Dillon and the team’s 40+ employees before they disperse, some within the sport and others elsewhere. The team competes for the first time since Sunday’s announcement at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:00 PM ET on NBCSN).
He has been the Germain Racing driver for the past four seasons. The team, which won the Truck titles in 2006 and 2010 with Todd Bodine, has competed in the Cup since 2009. Germain Racing’s best Cup finish is fourth, achieved by both Dillon and Casey Mears.
The team’s future soured when GEICO decided he would not be returning after this season. Without the sponsorship money and with multiple groups interested in the team card, a sale became the best route for owner Bob Germain. Hamlin and Jordan quickly put together an effort to buy the card and made headlines with their deal.
With lives turned upside down by the new coronavirus, Germain Racing employees are now looking for work in a pandemic. It adds stress to a 2020 that has tested so many.
“All of us in life go through things,” Dillon said. “Life… will never be easy or perfect. For me, this has definitely been an extremely stressful time with all things, the virus going on, our team announces we’re selling and it’s sold now with seven races to go, and you still have people you care about that you want to see get opportunity.
“Everyone tries to keep a good attitude. It is a very difficult situation. Then I have a baby girl (who will turn 3 in November) and my wife is pregnant and we will have our baby in November. You have your virus problems and you also want to make sure your daughter has grown up and is still able to go out and do the things that a 2 1/2 year old should be able to do. This is what’s most important to me in all things, spending time with her.
“Then in the back of your mind you have a desire to provide for your family. I’m 28 and just getting started. … Also, I have been running since I was 13, I have put a lot of time and effort into it. I feel like I haven’t been able to prove what I’m fully capable of yet. This is always in the back of my mind. So it was extremely stressful. “
Dillon said he relied on his faith to meet these challenges.
“I believe that God is with me in this process, no matter how much I don’t understand,” he said. “He’s on the other side. He’ll put me in a place that will allow me to do my best for his kingdom, and will bring me the greatest joy at the end of wherever I go here.
“Knowing they are my teeth in this stormy time. It’s definitely not an easy season and I’m immature in the fact that I want to know what’s going to happen. “
Dillon, who finished tenth best of the season in Las Vegas in February, said he has put together the sponsorship for 2021. He is among the many drivers who have not announced races for next year. That list includes Clint Bowyer, Corey LaJoie, Daniel Suarez, Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, and Justin Haley, among others.
Dillon told NBC Sports that “this week and next will be really crucial weeks to understand what the next step will be. There are a number of things that can happen and I’m not sure which will happen. “
2. Stay in power
While Michael Jordan made headlines for coming to NASCAR, the key is how long he will remain as an owner.
The sport is filled with former athletes and celebrities who have come and gone in ownership roles over the years.
While many in sport are hoping Jordan can help attract more fans and businesses, it must remain in the sport to achieve some of these goals.
Denny Hamlin, who is partnering with Jordan on the new team with Bubba Wallace as a pilot, told NBC Sports and Fox in an exclusive interview this week that he is confident he can create a program with stamina.
“He has me to help him with everyday things,” Hamlin said of Jordan. “Obviously, I have a daily job, racing a car and that’s what I will continue to do for years and years with my FedEx team, but I know enough about the sport to be able to lead this proprietary team in the right direction.”
The team is expected to line up with Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing.
Another key will be the staff hired to lead the team with Hamlin racing and Jordan busy as the owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets and his other business ventures.
“I think we will have the ability to start a team from scratch to essentially hire the best people available in each position,” Hamlin said. “Believe me, by the time this became public, we have already started those conversations.
“We will give Bubba the best chance or chance to win in year 1. I think he can win in year one, but I’m not naive to think that this is an easy deal too. It’s hard to win.
“Two years ago I didn’t win a race. I have 12 years of experience and I’m with the best team. My teammate, Kyle Busch, is one of the best and he hasn’t won yet in 2020. It’s not easy. It will be difficult, but I have a lot of faith that Bubba will have everything he needs to be able to win. “
If so, that should keep Jordan in the sport for a long time.
3. TikTok the timing was right
For all the time Ryan Vargas spent researching sponsorships, networking in the NASCAR garage, and looking for a step into the Xfinity series, he couldn’t have imagined how he landed a deal with the hottest social media ownership this year. .
Credit goes to Ryan Pistana, a friend of Vargas’s who designs paint schemes for some NASCAR teams.
Pistana created a TikTok car for Vargas why Vargas uses the social app so much. Pistana posted his concept outline for Vargas on social media in July.
TikTok soon saw the image and talks began.
“They loved the pattern, they loved the sport,” Vargas told NBC Sports. “They are very excited to jump in.”
TikTok also had a good rep at Vargas, who has over 40,000 followers and nearly 600,000 likes. Vargas’ TikTok videos are a mix of fun, behind-the-scenes images and inspiration.
Within about two months, TikTok has completed a six-race deal with Vargas and JD Motorsports that will begin next week at the Talladega Superspeedway. The deal allows Vargas to race the rest of the season.
Those six races equal the number of races Vargas has run in the series since last year. He ran three races last year and three this season.
When he didn’t race, he was often on the road crew for JD Motorsports. For the past month, Vargas has been a mechanic for BJ McLeod’s car in Richmond and Daytona, drove for the team in Darlington (finishing 25th) and has been a mechanic for Jeffrey Earnhardt’s car in Dover.
“I only learn this way,” Vargas said of his role as a mechanic on the track. “So when I get in the car, I know what I want changed.”
It’s a great learning experience, but drivers want to drive and Vargas is no different.
“I would lie to you if I said it doesn’t burn sometimes, your friends are out there running around and doing what they want,” he said. “I’ve experienced what it’s like to have more or less everything in pieces. I was very close to finishing competing at the end of 2018, so I know what it’s like to sit and not be in the car.”
Vargas credits a meeting with Mike Davis, director of brand strategy for JR Motorsports and co-host with Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the Dale Jr. Download, helping him get through the 2018 season.
“His advice to me, be there, get your gear and never stop working,” Vargas said of what Davis told him in their meeting.
Vargas continued to follow his dream. He now has a lap for six races thanks to social media.
4. The last run of a fan
For nearly 20 years, Kenneth Chase took his grandson Brendon Harmon to NASCAR racing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
They set out from Chase’s home in Sebago, Maine, and camped with friends and family. Sometimes the group was so large that they would need a second camper to accommodate everyone.
The journeys began when Harmon was around 5 years old. They continued when Chase, known as Pa to his grandchildren, found out he had prostate cancer.
As his grandfather was undergoing treatments in 2012, Harmon decided he wanted to take him to the Daytona 500.
Harmon did two jobs and saved more than $ 3,000 so he could take his grandparents and mom to the 2013 Daytona 500. He paid for plane tickets, ride tickets and the hotel.
Chase later got colon cancer. Doctors removed the tumor. The cancer has returned. They had another surgery. The cancer has returned and has spread.
Chase died on August 25. On Saturday he would have turned 77.
“That’s what I aspire to be someday,” Harmon said of Chase. “I really hope my future grandchildren think of me as I think of him.”
Harmon found a way to honor his grandfather. The NASCAR Foundation and the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation have partnered for the Nominate a Cancer Hero program. The program is auctioning space on a NASCAR truck or car to put a person’s name for this weekend’s Las Vegas races. More than 40 pilots participate. The program raised approximately $ 100,000.
Harmon discovered the auction just before it closed. He didn’t have enough money to deliver a winning offer, but he enlisted help from friends who rallied to provide the winning offer of around $ 2,800 to have Chase’s name on Alex Bowman’s car in Las Vegas on Sunday.
Chase was a fan of Dale Earnhardt. After Earnhardt’s death, he passed on to Hendrick Motorsports drivers Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. Chase remained a Hendrick fan, so putting his name on a Hendrick car was perfect for Harmon.
“He’s able to go fast once again,” Harmon told NBC Sports. “He can hear the racing car one more time and hear the racing car one more time.”
Harmon will reunite with the family on Sunday and have a barbecue at his home, serving venison steak and grilled chicken. He will also eat ice cream. Chase ate ice cream, often chocolate, while watching the races on TV.
Watching Sunday’s race on NBCSN and knowing that his grandfather’s name will be on Bowman’s car will be special to Harmon.
“It will be a mixture of tears and joy,” he said.
5. Learn by example
The Xfinity playoffs begin Saturday night at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:30 PM ET on NBCSN).
As Chase Briscoe comes in after his seventh win of the season, tying regular season champion Austin Cindric for the most wins this season, rookie Harrison Burton looks to take the lessons he’s learned this season and turn them into a race. for the title.
Burton told NBC Sports that one of the areas he has improved the most this season is “using my head and thinking about things.”
Note that his third place finish at Kansas Speedway was a game changer.
“I think Kansas was probably one of the funniest races I’ve ever lost,” he said. “I was really thinking, how can I beat Austin (Cindric, who finished second to Brandon Jones)? What can I show him to make him do something I want him to do? (They are) the things I talk about and say on the Denny Hamlin radio. Use the mental side of the game to your advantage. It was really fun to go to places where it’s a big deal and try to make the most of it. “
The key, Burton said, is to have a car that allows a driver to think as he hits his mark in every corner.
“When that becomes muscle memory, that’s when you free your brain and you’re able to strategize in your head,” he said. “You are able to show people the lines you know will hurt their tires, but it’s fast. Then you abandon them for a long time because they did.”
Who taught Burton a memorable lesson in such a situation?
“Briscoe does a good job of showing you a different lane and catching you with a different lane and then has the ability to overtake you in a completely different (lane),” Burton said.
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