Three Charlotte-area drivers are included in this year’s NASCAR Next class.
Huntersville’s Harrison Burton, Sherrills Ford’s Todd Gilliland and UNC Charlotte student Matt Tifft are part of the 2016-17 class of a program that spotlights young prospects.
Burton, 15, the son of former NASCAR driver Jeff Burton, is driving on the NASCAR K&N Pro Series after becoming the youngest driver in history to win a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series race last year. Gilliland, 16, son of Cup driver David Gilliland, won his first four K&N Pro Series starts. Tifft, a member of Joe Gibbs Racing’s development program, is driving part-time in the Xfinity Series and was on the pole at Talladega earlier this month. He is also driving in the Truck series for Red Horse Racing.
Other NASCAR Next drivers: Colin Cabre, 22, Tampa, Fla.; Spencer Davis, 17, Dawsonville, Ga.; Alon Day, 24, Ashdod, Israel; Tyler Dippel, 16, Wallkill, N.Y.; Noah Gragson, 17, Las Vegas; Gary Klutt, 23, Halton Hills, Ontario; Julie Landauer, 24, New York; and Ty Majeski, 21, Seymour, Wis.
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▪ Charlotte Motor Speedway will present John Falkenbury with the Stonewall Jackson Award for patriotism during pre-race ceremonies for the Coca-Cola 600 on May 29.
The presentation to Falkenbury, president of the USO of North Carolina, will be part of the speedway’s “Salute to the Troops” pre-race show, which will feature a military re-enactment by the soldiers at Fort Bragg, musical performances and thousands of military members in attendance.
Carl Edwards, who won the 2015 Coca-Cola 600, arrived in a military Humvee for the Tuesday announcement of pre-race activities at the track.
“The Coca-Cola 600 is a tough race for a number of reasons,” Edwards said at the news conference. “It’s so fast, you’ve got to be aggressive all the time, and 600 miles wears anyone out. It’s fitting that such a difficult race is that special and it’s got such a place in our sport because if you win it, you’ve really done something.”
▪ Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen will practice driving the Sprint All-Star Race pace car Wednesday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Olsen will drive the pace car before Saturday’s race.
▪ NASCAR.com reports that Tony Stewart will give the starting command for the all-star race from inside his No. 14 Chevy. This will be the final all-star race for Stewart, who is retiring as a Cup driver after this year.
▪ Four drivers – Aric Almirola, Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr. – took part in a tire test Tuesday at Michigan International Speedway.
“Last year when we came here, we had the high-drag package and I thought the race wasn’t exactly what we hoped for,” said Almirola. “Now, with the low-downforce package, the cars drive better in traffic. It will certainly put on a better race.”