January 16, 2021


A former Alabama walk-on football player was killed in a car accident just days after celebrating his marriage.

Rowdy Harrell, a linebacker from 2009-12 from Moundville, died Tuesday night along with his wife while driving in the Florida Keys. Harrell, 30, went on to enjoy success as tire carrier in the NASCAR world working with Hendricks Motorsports.

He and his new bride Blakley were married on Saturday and they were traveling to their honeymoon when the accident occurred. It was a head-on collision on US-1, The Miami Herald reported.

The Hale County High School graduate was part of three national championship teams in 2009, 2011 and 2012 while graduating with a degree in human performance and exercise science.

The auto racing world came calling after graduation and he quickly gained acclaim for his work on the pit crew. He was twice a Xfinity Series champion pit crew member with JR Motorsports.

He was a tire carrier for the past eight seasons, working most recently with Alex Bowman of the No. 88 team of the NASCAR Cup Series.

“Our entire team is absolutely devastated at the loss of Rowdy and Blakley,” said Greg Ives, Harrell’s crew chief for the past six seasons, in a statement released by Hendrick Motorsports. “They were such positive, giving and passionate people who could not have been a more perfect match. Rowdy had an energetic and infectious personality. He was the heart and soul of our team and always kept us motivated, no matter the circumstance.”

Michael Casagrande is a reporter for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @ByCasagrande or on Facebook.

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NASCAR driver Martin Truex Jr. tests the Next Gen car at the Charlotte Roval. This version of the car was built by Action Express Racing and previously tested at Daytona.

NASCAR driver Martin Truex Jr. tests the Next Gen car at the Charlotte Roval. This version of the car was built by Action Express Racing and previously tested at Daytona.

The NASCAR season might be over, but Charlotte Motor Speedway was still loud with the sound of revving engines Monday as two Cup drivers tested the highly anticipated Next Gen car for the first time at the Concord track.

Kurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr. participated in the first day of a two-day test at the speedway on Monday. The session featured the drivers on the track’s 2.32-mile road course, also known as the Roval. The second day of the testing takes place Wednesday on the speedway’s oval with the same drivers.

“It feels like the first day of school because of how different the car is,” Busch said.

He described driving the car as “fun, exciting and different,” noting the changes from an H-pattern gearbox in the current car to a sequential gearbox in Next Gen, an especially noticeable change at the road courses that emphasize gear shifting.

The brakes and tires are also larger in the Next Gen car, and the ability to stop is quicker, the drivers said. The sound of the car was also a point of comment.

“It sounds throatier and deeper,” Busch said. “The sound was very cool.”

Truex Jr. called the sound “cool and badass when you’re driving it,” explaining that the deeper noise was created by an exhaust tailpipe on each side, rather than just on one side, as it is in the current car.

The Next Gen car is scheduled to debut in competition in 2022 after its release was pushed back a year due to the pandemic. Versions of the car were previously tested by Austin Dillon at Richmond last October, Joey Logano at Indianapolis last December, Erik Jones at Homestead-Miami in January, William Byron at Fontana in March and Cole Custer at Dover in August.

Monday’s test marked NASCAR’s sixth Next Gen test session, as well as the first time multiple drivers ran at the same time in the new car, although Busch and Truex Jr. were spaced fairly far apart for their laps.

Busch was running a version of the car NASCAR is referring to as its “P3” model, which is the same model Byron and Custer tested earlier, with some minor modifications after Byron crashed during his test in early March (ECR engine). Truex ran a Next Gen car built by Action Express Racing and tested earlier at Daytona (Ford engine).

The car is intentionally designed to look more similar to cars sold in stores by manufacturers, and it will include a shift to a single lug nut instead of the five lug nut pattern currently used with the smaller wheels.

Like Busch, Truex Jr.’s test review was positive. He called the car “really solid and fun to drive so far.”

“I guess it does everything a little bit better,” Truex Jr. said. “It’s


Photo credit: Jared C. Tilton
Photo credit: Jared C. Tilton

From Autoweek

From the moment the next-generation NASCAR Cup Series car pulled out of the garage on Monday afternoon on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, everyone in attendance knew this was unlike anything in the history of the discipline.

It simply sounded different, that feature thanks to a split exhaust unlike the current car, which uses a crossover pipe.

But it’s more than just the audiovisual aesthetics, the Next-Gen is a different machine inside and out. The car features independent rear suspension, a departure from the tried and true solid axle rear suspension.

The car has 18” wheels and lower profile tires.

It features a sequential shifter instead of the traditional H pattern, the overall package more closely resembling elements of a sports car with stock car overtures.

For the first time ever, two of these cars shared the track at the same time, with the car nearing its 2022 debut during Daytona Speedweeks — following a one-year delay due to the pandemic.

But the extra year will allow NASCAR to finetune its new platform with tests like the one conducted on Monday at Charlotte with Kurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr. behind the wheel.

Busch, driving a Chevrolet powered car named Prototype 3 prepared by Richard Childress Racing, likened the experience to the “first day of school” due to how radically different the experience was from the status quo.

“With the sequential gearbox, that’s the most fun,” Busch said. “I love shifting through the gears. Sequentially, you have to go second, third, fourth, fifth, and then you have to go back fourth, third, second. It’s not your typical H-pattern that we’ve had. So, this gearbox is fun to drive.

“The brakes are much bigger, and the car can stop a lot quicker.”

Busch called the experience “fun, exciting and different.”

Truex was driving a Ford powered car prepared by the Action Express IMSA team, with noticeable visual differences between how the car was prepared, mostly in terms of where the vents were placed.

“There are so many differences about the way these cars are built from our style of racing or racing stock cars in general,” Truex said. “It’s going to be a huge learning curve for everyone, but when the car is balanced well, it feels really, really similar to what we have now. That’s a good thing. This is a slow road course.”

The cars will test again with the same two drivers on the oval configuration on Wednesday. That session will include several side-by-side restarts to see how the cars handle in dirty air.

“To see how it feels on the fast oval Wednesday will be a real eye-opener,” Truex added.

As for the Roval tests, the cars were lapping in the 84 second range, comparable to what the current generation cars race pace on Oct. 11. It was several seconds slower than the 2019 race which was conducted using high downforce.

The engine was tuned to several different