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Notebook: Southern Modified Tour to crown champ

By Jim Utter
jutter@charlotteobserver.com

While Thursday typically is reserved for qualifying on Charlotte Motor Speedway race weekends, there will be some racing and the crowning of a NASCAR champion.

Thursday night, CMS will host the season finale of the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour on the track’s quarter-mile frontstretch oval.

George Brunnhoelzl III is looking to clinch his fourth series championship in the UNOH Southern Slam 150, which will be run after Sprint Cup Series qualifying. He leads second-place Kyle Ebersole by 32 points.

“It’s definitely a huge accomplishment to get one championship, let alone four and three in a row,” said Brunnhoelzl, the defending Charlotte race winner. “You don’t know what to say. It’s a big accomplishment and there’s a lot of people that help you do it.”

Also Thursday night, Lyn-Z Pastrana, wife of Nationwide Series regular Travis Pastrana, will attempt to defend her victory in the “Better Half Dash” – a 25-lap charity race featuring wives and girlfriends of NASCAR drivers and other personalities.

The Dash is set to start at approximately 5:30 p.m. Lyn-Z Pastrana was fastest in practice this week, followed by Michelle Gilliland, wife of driver David Gilliland, and Ashley Stremme, wife of driver David Stremme.

Crew member suspended; released by team

John Smeltzer, an employee of Hendrick Motorsports who worked most recently as the engine tuner for JR Motorsports’ No.7 team, was indefinitely suspended Tuesday from NASCAR for violating the sanctioning body’s substance-abuse policy.

Hendrick Motorsports released the following statement: “Our organization respects and fully supports NASCAR’s policies with regard to banned substances. The individual in question is no longer employed by the company.”

New crew chiefs start jobs

Phoenix Racing named Jimmy Elledge interim crew chief for the rest of the Cup season on its No.51 Chevrolet team. The move reunites Elledge with Justin Allgaier, who will be in the No.51 two of the final six races.

“I am looking forward to having Jimmy on the box making the calls the rest of the year. He's a familiar voice and we’ve had success working together,” said Allgaier.

Elledge replaces Nick Harrison, who has been hired as crew chief of Richard Childress Racing’s No.33 Nationwide team.

“In our eyes, Nick has done a great job as crew chief with the No.51 Chevrolet team in Cup,” said Eric Warren, director of competition for RCR. "We have had several discussions with him and really enjoy his fresh attitude and strong work ethic.”

Harrison won the July Nationwide race last season with driver Kurt Busch.

Allmendinger to race in IndyCar finale

A.J. Allmendinger, who has competed in a variety of open-wheel and NASCAR events this season, will drive for Penske Racing in the IndyCar Series season finale Oct.19 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., the team announced Wednesday.

The native of Los Gatos, Calif., has raced at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., Long Beach (Calif.), the Indianapolis 500 and the series doubleheader at Detroit’s Belle Isle Park this season.

Michael Waltrip racing again

Two-time Daytona 500 champion Michael Waltrip heads to All American Speedway in Roseville, Calif., this week to compete in Saturday night’s K&N Pro Series West race.

An Owensboro, Ky., native, he will drive the No.20 NAPA Toyota for Bill McAnally Racing. Waltrip drove the No.20 to an 11th place-finish at Spokane County (Wash.) Raceway during August.

Trucking to New Hampshire

New Hampshire Motor Speedway announced this week it was bringing back the NASCAR Truck Series for 2014, and this time the series will compete at both of the track’s NASCAR weekends.

A 200-lap event will be held during the July race weekend and a 175-lap event will take place during the track’s September 2014 race weekend.

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