Free-agent focus: Who stays, who goes for Blue Jackets?
While the Columbus Blue Jackets have no UFA’s of note, they still have their work cut out for them with a laundry list of RFA’s, including several core players. © Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports Getting Dubois, 22, locked up long-term is the core objective of the Blue Jackets’ off-season. Key Restricted Free AgentsF Pierre-Luc Dubois – Getting Dubois, 22, locked up long-term is the core objective of the Blue Jackets’ off-season. Over the three seasons of his entry-level contract, Dubois totaled 158 points in 234 games, including a 61-point campaign in 2018-19 and a 57-point pace this season.
Matt DiBenedetto remains with Wood Brothers Racing for 2021 season in Cup STUART, VA (October 8, 2020) —
After a successful first season driving for NASCAR‘s longest-running team, Wood Brothers Racing announced today that Matt DiBenedetto will return to compete in the famed No. 21 Ford Mustang in the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series.
Since joining Wood Brothers Racing earlier this year, DiBenedetto has earned three top-five finishes and eight top-10 results this season as he qualified for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs for the first time in his six-year career competing in NASCAR‘s premier series. DiBenedetto finished as runner-up in both Cup Series races at Las Vegas this season, including in the Playoff round at the 1.5-mile track on September 27. He also came within a few feet of earning his first Cup Series victory in last weekend‘s race at Talladega Superspeedway.
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Gallery: Celebrating Hendrick drivers through the years (NASCAR)
Rick Hendrick made his first venture into big-league stock-car racing in 1984. In the years that have followed, many drivers have taken the wheel of his Chevrolet entries in NASCAR's top series. Some grew to build NASCAR Hall of Fame credentials; all left their mark with a story to tell. Scroll through some of the drivers who helped build the Hendrick empire.
Bodine, pictured here with team manager Harry Hyde, brought a then-fledgling Hendrick Motorsports its first taste of success in its debut year of 1984. His three wins that season kept the team afloat and launched it into the sport's upper crust.
Bodine scored seven of his 18 career wins, including the 1986 Daytona 500, driving for Hendrick from 1984-89.
Richmond, a brash Ohioan, joined Hendrick's organization in 1986 to form a two-car attack, back when multi-car teams were a relatively new trend. Richmond posted nine of his 13 wins in Hendrick equipment. His bright career was cut short by his death from AIDS in 1989.
Hendrick himself suited up for a pair of starts in 1987 and '88 at the former Riverside International Raceway in California, recording finishes of 33rd and 15th in his only driving appearances in NASCAR's premier series
Waltrip, shown here with Hendrick in the 1990 preseason media tour, helped Hendrick Motorsports expand to a three-car operation for the 1987 season. Waltrip stayed with Hendrick through the 1990 season, claiming his lone Daytona 500 victory during a six-win 1989 campaign in the Tide-sponsored No. 17.
The veteran racer competed from 1988-96 for Hendrick Motorsports, winning four times during his tenure with the team. Schrader won the pole for the 1988 Daytona 500 in his first start for the team, then broke through for his first victory at Talladega Superspeedway later that year.
Well, sort of. Hendrick served as a technical consultant for the 1990 motion picture 'Days of Thunder,' starring Tom Cruise as aspiring driver Cole Trickle. Cruise drove Hendrick-prepared cars in the filming, and the two reunited with his Trickle's fictional No. 46 entry at Daytona in 2009.
Rudd signed on with Hendrick Motorsports in 1990, completing four seasons before leaving to form his own race team. Rudd won one race in each of his seasons with Hendrick, during the heart of a 16-year streak of at least one victory per season.
Hendrick's eye for talent didn't miss in the early 1990s when he hired a young sprint-car driver with California and Indiana roots. The deal led to Gordon's remarkable 93-win career, which spanned from 1992-2016 and included four series championships and three Daytona 500 wins.
Labonte connected with Hendrick Motorsports in 1994 for an 11-season full-time run that included the 1996 series championship. That stretch of longevity also included his final victory -- in the 2003 Southern 500 at Darlington -- and this farewell in 2006.
The Maine native, now an analyst for FOX, drove for Hendrick in 1997 and for part of the '98 season. The latter included a brief change of Hendrick's No. 25 to No. 50 to commemorate NASCAR's golden anniversary season.
Wally Dallenbach Jr.
Dallenbach, who also made the jump to the broadcast booth after his driving days, rounded out the '98 season and the full-time 1999 campaign for Hendrick Motorsports. He managed one top-five finish in 50 starts for the team.
Nadeau took the wheel of the Hendrick Motorsports No. 25 Chevy during an 81-race stretch from 2000-02. That span included his lone premier series victory in the 2000 season finale at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Forming the No. 48 team with a partial ownership stake for Jeff Gordon brought Jimmie Johnson to NASCAR's top division full-time in 2002. That relationship sparked one of the most successful careers in NASCAR history, with seven series championship and 80-plus wins and counting.
Johnson also brought Hendrick his milestone 200th victory at NASCAR's top level, leading to this celebration at Darlington Raceway in 2012.
Hendrick fielded its No. 25 for Brian Vickers from 2004-06, a three-year full-time run that delivered the young driver his first victory in controversial fashion. Vickers nudged teammate Jimmie Johnson's second-place car into leader Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s, bumping his way from third place to first on the final lap at Talladega in October 2006.
Busch helped establish Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota's place in the sport later in his career, but it was Rick Hendrick who gave Busch his first premier-series start as a 19-year-old in 2004. Busch drove three full seasons (2005-07) for Hendrick Motorsports, taking Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in '05.
A two-season partnership (2007-08) gave Mears his breakthrough triumph in NASCAR's top division. The emotions overflowed for Mears, who hugged teammate Jimmie Johnson in Victory Lane after winning the 2007 Coca-Cola 600.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Earnhardt's buzzed-about free agency period in 2007 came to an end with his decision to join Hendrick Motorsports. Earnhardt retired following the 2017 season and now works in the booth for NBC.
Keselowski drove for Earnhardt's JR Motorsports team and made just nine starts as a prospect for Hendrick Motorsports in the premier series. He instead made the full-time jump with Team Penske in 2010.
The NASCAR Hall of Famer had a late-career resurgence with Hendrick Motorsports, winning five times and finishing second in the series standings in his first season with the team (2009). He drove two more years for Hendrick before eventually hanging up his driving gloves in 2013.
Kahne entered the Hendrick Motorsports camp in 2012, taking the wheel of the No. 5 Chevrolet from Martin. He netted six of his 18 career victories for his team owner.
Hendrick tapped a next-generation star as his choice to replace the retiring Jeff Gordon in the No. 24 Chevy. Elliott, who won the NASCAR Xfinity Series crown as a first-year driver in 2014, corralled Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors (2016) in the premier series at age 20. He now drives the No. 9 Chevrolet.
Byron began driving in the Cup Series for Hendrick in 2018. He won Sunoco Rookie of the Year in 2018 and then won his first Cup Series race in 2020 at Daytona International Speedway with Chad Knaus atop the pit box.
Bowman filled in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2016 when Earnhardt was sidelined with a concussion. That led to a full-time job in the 88 after Earnhardt retired. Now, Bowman will move to the No. 48 to replace the legendary Jimmie Johnson in 2021 as Johnson steps away from a full-time role.
Back to Chase Elliott for another major milestone. It was the 22-year-old who gave Hendrick Motorsports its 250th win by scoring the first NASCAR Cup Series win of his career at Watkins Glen on Aug. 5, 2018.
“It‘s such an honor to be able to continue to drive for Wood Brothers Racing and have another year to grow with this organization,” said DiBenedetto. “I am excited to learn from our 2020 notebook and I‘m confident that with a full season under our belt and working together as a team, we will produce even better results. I also want to thank Ford Performance and Team Penske for their efforts in making this happen. These types of decisions take a lot of time, as we all know there are a lot of factors in play. All three groups want to make the best decisions for everyone involved and I‘m appreciative to have the opportunity to continue to compete for such a legendary race team.”
Rangers expected to buy out Henrik Lundqvist
The end of an era is upon us. After 15 years of brilliant play in the New York net, the Rangers and decorated goaltender Henrik Lundqvist are set to part ways. TSN’s Darren Dreger reports that the Rangers will buy out the final year of Lundqvist’s contract, with an announcement expected on Wednesday. At 38, Lundqvist will be an unrestricted free agent for the very first time. © Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports After 15 years of brilliant play in the New York net, the Rangers and decorated goaltender Henrik L As Dreger explains, this was not an easy decision for New York.
Wood Brothers Racing, the oldest active NASCAR team and one of the winningest teams in series history, has enjoyed considerable success over the last couple of years. The team has produced 99 victories at NASCAR‘s top level as legendary drivers including David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Neil Bonnett, Dan Gurney, AJ Foyt and Buddy Baker have all visited Victory Lane with the team. The organization will continue its technical alliance with Team Penske in 2021, along with significant support from Ford Performance.
“Matt has been able to find success this year under very difficult circumstances,” said team President and Co-Owner Eddie Wood. “Since he joined our team, he only had limited time working with our group due to the pandemic. While it‘s been an entirely new organization, he found a way to consistently run up front and make the Playoffs. We have learned a lot together this year and we look forward to continuing to build with Matt in 2021.”
DiBenedetto, the 29-year-old Grass Valley, California native, is one of the most popular drivers in the Cup Series and he‘s finished inside the top-five in fan voting for both the Most Popular Driver award and the All-Star Race Fan Vote the past several seasons. On the track, he‘s earned six top-five and 19 top-10 finishes over the course of his career.
Zane Smith re-signs with GMS Racing for 2021 season .