Next Sprint Cup Series Race * Richmond International Raceway * Richmond, Virginia * Saturday, April 26, 2014
Next Nationwide Series Race * Richmond International Raceway * Richmond, Virginia * Friday, April 25, 2014
Next Camping World Truck Series Race * Kansas Speedway * Kansas City, Kansas * Friday, May 9, 2014
Harvick Battles Back To Win Darlington, His Second Victory Of The Season
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A Wild Finish For Keving Harvick
The 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season has been one of feast or famine for Kevin Harvick—and on Saturday night at Darlington Raceway, Harvick enjoyed the delectable taste of victory. Passing Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the next-to-last lap of the second attempt at a green-white-checkered-flag finish, Harvick won Sunday’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 and all but locked himself into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup as the first two-time winner in the series this year (he still needs to finish in the top 30 in points after race No. 26 and attempt to qualify for every race).
In the second race of the season, Harvick dominated in winning at Phoenix, before a spate of mechanical issues waylaid him in four of five subsequent events. On Saturday at Darlington, he was the class of the field again, leading 238 of 374 laps in a race that went seven circuits past its scheduled distance. Nevertheless, it took a four-tire call in the pits and a late caution to give Harvick a final chance to beat Earnhardt, who had streaked to a 15-car-length lead on two fresh tires in the first attempt at a green-white-checker. But Kurt Busch’s wreck on the backstretch brought out the 11th caution on Lap 369 and snatched the victory from Earnhardt’s grasp. Restarting on the outside of the front row after powering past Jimmie Johnson on the first attempt at overtime, Harvick prevailed with a superior car on superior tires.
The victory was Harvick’s first at Darlington and the 25th of his career. It was the series-best third win of the season for Stewart-Haas Racing. After the race, Harvick, the pole winner, revealed he had been keeping a tactic in reserve for just the sort of moment that arose Saturday night at the 1.366-mile speedway. "We were able to hang on there at the end, and I knew I had that high line I hadn’t showed it to them all night on the restarts, and I wanted to save it until the very end," Harvick said. "I kind of learned that last night as we were in the Nationwide race. It was a good tool in your tool bag to have there at the end." In fact, Harvick passed Earnhardt to the outside through Turns 3 and 4 on the penultimate lap.
Earnhardt finished second, .558 seconds back. Johnson ran third, followed by Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle. Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, rookie Kyle Larson, Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman completed the top 10. "Everybody was telling me that I had a 15 car length lead, and I don't want to hear about that," Earnhardt said. "I'm going to hear about it all day tomorrow; 'Man; you almost won it.' They said we had it won with a 15 car length lead coming into that last white flag when the caution come out on the back straightaway (for Kurt Busch’s wreck off the nose of Clint Bowyer’s Toyota). "But (Kevin) was pretty fast. I think he was going to run the (heck) out of it and try to get there. I was trying not to look in the mirror, just try to run as hard as I could. I didn't know how much speed the car had. We were on two tires ... But feels good to be close."
Nothing could thwart Harvick’s domination of the first two-thirds of the race. A dropped lug nut on a pit stop on Lap 222 relegated him to ninth for a restart on Lap 227. But by the time NASCAR threw the seventh caution on Lap 247, Harvick was running fourth. Four laps after a restart on Lap 252, Harvick was back in the lead, passing Brian Vickers for the top spot. After Paul Menard hit the outside wall for the second time on Lap 271, Harvick ran over a piece of Menard’s brake rotor—twice—but his No. 4 Chevrolet was unaffected. Biffle took the lead on pit road with a two-tire stop, but Harvick regained the point on the restart lap (279) and quickly pulled away to a two-second advantage over Gordon and Earnhardt in second and third.
On longer runs, Gordon’s Chevy was the equal of Harvick’s, but Gordon had a miserable time on restarts and repeatedly dropped back so far on the initial green-flag laps that he couldn’t make up the ground during the course of a fuel run. But it was Johnson who chased Harvick lap after lap after a cycle of green-flag pit stops ended on Lap 323. Johnson got as close as .601 seconds back before Harvick began to pull away. But caution for fluid from Joey Logano’s Ford scrambled the field on divergent pit strategies and set up the wild finish. Harvick restarted fifth on Lap 363 as the first driver on four new tires and gained the third position before NASCAR called a debris caution on Lap 365 to necessitate the first attempt at overtime.
Notes: Gordon retained the series lead by one point over Kenseth, but neither has a victory this season. ... Rookie Kyle Larson scored his fourth top 10 in eight races this season. ... Harvick is the first polesitter to win at Darlington since Dale Jarrett accomplished the feat in 1997. NASCAR News Wire
Chase Elliott Does It Again, Wins Nationwide Race At Darlington
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Chase Elliott Celebrates With Mom and Dad
There's a new sheriff in town, and he's barely legal. With a banzai run in a two-lap dash to the finish of Friday night's NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Darlington Raceway, 18-year-old Chase Elliott muscled his way past Elliott Sadler on the final lap to score his second straight win in his seventh start in the series. Elliott, who restarted sixth on Lap 146, charged to the front and claimed victory in the VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 in his first event at the fabled 1.366-mile track. The victory was Elliott's second in as many weeks and the second of his career.
Sadler, who gambled on two tires for the final restart with two laps left, held the second spot. Matt Kenseth ran third, followed by polesitter Kyle Busch and Joey Logano. "I knew the guys on two tires (Sadler and Kyle Larson) were going to be a little slower than the guys on four," Elliott said of the final restart. "Our lane went and Elliott (Sadler) got a little loose off (Turn) 2 and let me get to the outside, and that was where I wanted to be anyway."
Elliott won last Friday at Texas Motor Speedway, but the victory at Darlington, where his father Bill Elliott won five NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, had special significance. "Darlington has always been my favorite place to watch a race," said Chase Elliott, the youngest driver ever to win at Nationwide Series race at Darlington at 18 years, 4 months, 4 days. "Just to be a part of this race is unbelievable. "To win this thing is a day I'll never forget."
Elliott also is the youngest driver ever to win two NNS races, and he's the youngest driver to lead the series points standings, a feat he accomplished for the first time last week at Texas. On Friday night, Elliott extended his points lead to 13 over Regan Smith, who recovered from a spin to finish eighth. Elliot asserted his superiority early in the race. After restarting fourth on Lap 24, he made short work of the cars in front on him. On Lap 27, he stormed past Kevin Harvick and Kenseth into the second spot and seven laps later sped by Busch, the polesitter, for the lead.
Harvick followed into second place four laps later, and the top three -- Elliott, Harvick and Busch -- remained constant until NASCAR called a caution on Lap 59 for debris on the backstretch. During pit stops under the yellow, Harvick and Elliott swapped the top two positions, and Harvick led the field to green on Lap 65. By the time they got back to the stripe, Elliott had retaken the top spot, but the green-flag run didn't last long.
On Lap 68, a wild wreck involving the Chevrolet of Dylan Kwasniewski and the Ford of Chris Buescher slowed the field for the third time. Elliott controlled the action through two subsequent yellows but lost four positions during pit stops under caution on Lap 89 for Smith's spin in Turn 1. Busch assumed the lead off pit road, with Kenseth, Harvick, Larson and Elliott trailing for a restart on Lap 94. NASCAR News Wire
Joey Logano Beats Jeff Gordon To Win At Texas
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Crew Chief Congratulates Logano On Victory
Joey Logano's "Final Four" at Texas Motor Speedway had nothing to do with the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship set for Monday night in nearby Arlington. Logano and crew chief Todd Gordon's decision to pit for four Goodyear Dual Zone tires during the final caution period of the rain-delayed Duck Commander 500 propelled the Team Penske star to his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory of 2014. "We've been in contention every race this year to win, and I'm proud to be a part of that," said Logano, who extended a streak that has produced seven different winners in as many Sprint Cup races. "I felt very confident about this race. For some reason, I told Todd, I said, 'We're going to win this week,' and I was mad when we didn't get the pole. But I felt like we had a car that could win today."
Logano, 23, scored his first career victory on the 1.5-mile quad-oval and fourth in 190 career Sprint Cup starts at the expense of four-time series champion Jeff Gordon under a green-white-checkered-flag finish that extended the race to 340 laps from the originally scheduled 334. Logano, driver of the No. 22 Shell Pennzoil/Hertz Ford Fusion, passed Gordon via a crossover move on the inside heading into Turn 1 on Lap 340 en route to margin of victory of 0.476 seconds. Kyle Busch finished third with Brian Vickers and Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Kyle Larson rounding out a top five that was shuffled by the day's seventh and final caution on Lap 333.
Logano was working on a 3.053-second lead over teammate Brad Keselowski when Kurt Busch, winner of last week's race at Martinsville Speedway, brushed the outside wall in Turn 2. During the ensuing pit stops, Logano and Keselowski opted for four tires and fuel. Gordon, of Hendrick Motorsports, and Vickers, of Michael Waltrip Racing, opted for right-side rubber only and exited pit road 1-2. "When you've got 40-something laps after the last pit stop and a pretty sizeable lead, really, all you're thinking is, 'Where's the white flag?'" Logano said. "Brad was able to catch us a little bit and then you go into Turn 1 and see the No. 41 (of Kurt Busch) up against the wall and you're like, 'Please, no caution.' And, of course -- boom -- it comes out and you're like, 'You've got to be kidding me.' So you get so mad that you can barely control yourself. Really, I was just so mad. And then he (Todd Gordon) made a last-minute decision to put fuel in it, gave me better balance for what I needed and the guys made the 'money stop.' I was the first guy out with four tires on."
Similarly, Gordon praised crew chief Alan Gustafson for a "great call" to go with two tires on the final stop given his standing when the yellow flew. "I mean, coming in sixth, you're in that position that you can gamble," said Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Axalta/Texas A&M School of Engineering Chevrolet SS. "You're not going to win it with four (tires),you're not going to win it with none. I knew it was going to be hard to hold those guys off. "I got a pretty good restart, so I was happy about that. Got through (Turns) 1 and 2. I was shocked I was leading off of 2, to be honest. I wish I would have run a little bit higher down (Turns) 3 and 4. I'm sure Joey was going to go wherever I didn't. Probably would have been a little bit better off on the top. He crossed over and got into the back of me pretty good. At that point I was just thinking, 'I want to finish.' Looked out my mirror, those guys were racing hard behind me. A great second-place finish for me."
Kyle Busch, winner of this event last year, said he was looking at solid third-place results before the final sequence. "Of course, the inevitable comes out with the yellow and you have to come down and get tires -- just way too long out there on tires," said Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry fielded by Joe Gibbs Racing. "I chose four just because I absolutely killed my stuff about three laps prior to that caution coming out so I knew that was our only chance. Just drove the hell out of it there those last two laps and got all she could and come home third. Good, deserving finish for us here."
Keselowski was poised to give team owner Roger Penske a slam-dunk 1-2 finish behind his teammate when the final caution flew. Keselowski exited the pits fourth with four tires, one spot behind Logano. But he was charged with speeding off pit road -- a miscue that dropped him to 15th. "That last caution was a shame," said Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford. "I was just trying to get a little too much on pit road and wanted to get us out front to be able to win the race and tried a little too hard. We're in it for wins. We're not in it for finishing second."
Gordon emerged as the new points leader after HMS teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. crashed out of the event on Lap 12, finished 43rd and dropped to sixth in the standings. Gordon holds a four-point (259-255) lead over Matt Kenseth of Joe Gibbs Racing heading into Saturday night's Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. NASCAR News Wire
Rookie Chase Elliott - Another First-Time Winner
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Chase Elliott Celebrates First Nationwide Victory
When Chase Elliott took the checkered flag in Friday night's O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway, cementing his first NASCAR Nationwide Series victory, spotter Earl Barban had a message for him. "I want to see the best burnout ever," Barban told the 18-year-old son of former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Bill Elliott. Chase Elliott obliged, laying a thick could of smoke from the exit of the tri-oval back to the flag stand.
Elliott had reason to celebrate. He had just beaten the top talents in the stock car racing universe, whipping around Kevin Harvick to the outside in Turn 4 to take the lead on Lap 185 of 200. Ultimately, Elliott would pull away for the victory, finishing 2.666 seconds ahead of Kyle Busch, who ran second. Kyle Larson came home third, followed by Harvick, who lost ground after the last restart on Lap 178 of 200. Elliott's team owner at JR Motorsports, Dale Earnhardt Jr., finished fifth. Both Busch and Larson started from the rear of the field after failing to clear inspection before the first round of Friday afternoon knockout qualifying concluded. Elliott took the series lead by two points over JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith, who ran seventh.
Elliott, the NASCAR Next graduate, claimed his first national series win last September in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park when he became that series' youngest winner at the time. Erik Jones eclipsed that mark at Phoenix last fall. Elliott now becomes the second youngest driver to win in the Nationwide Series, behind Joey Logano.
Harvick won the pole in the qualifying session. He also gave Elliott some advice that may have come back to haunt him. "I can't it believe it, man," Elliott said after climbing from his car in Victory Lane. "It's crazy. I went to him (Harvick) for a lot of advice this week, and helped me out, gave me some tips. … To pass him for the lead is really crazy. I can't believe it. It's awesome, and I can't thank everybody enough."
The win also vindicated Bill Elliott's assessment of his son's talent. "I'm about speechless," Elliott said. "I can't thank Rick Hendrick, all the guys at HMS (Hendrick Motorsports), JR Motorsports for pulling this deal together, and (sponsor) NAPA for putting together at the last minute. Everything was on the fence all the way till January. I keep saying it. Never to have been at some of these places like Vegas, California and now here at Texas, and to come out and beat the kind of guys he beat -- I'll tell you what, you've done a heck of a job."
Harvick led the first 86 laps, but lost the top spot to Busch in an excellent three-way battle that featured the same three drivers -- Harvick, Busch and Larson -- who fought for the win in Fontana, Calif., two weeks earlier, with Larson getting his first NNS victory. Busch remained out front before and after the first cycle of green-flag pit stops around the midpoint of the race, but after a caution on Lap 121 for Chad Boat's wreck on the frontstretch, the entire complexion of the race changed.
Busch restarted with the lead after a round of pit stops under the yellow but lost the lead to Elliott on Lap 135. Complaining of a tight handling condition, Harvick dropped from second to seventh before his car started to cooperate. On Lap 155, Earnhardt passed Elliott for the lead and quickly extended his advantage to more than two seconds before Jamie Dick's wreck on the backstretch caused the fifth caution on Lap 169.
Harvick, who had regained the fourth position during the 43-lap run after the restart, took advantage of a 12.4-second pit stop to retake the lead on pit road under the yellow. Coming to the green flag for a restart on Lap 178, Harvick led Elliott, Earnhardt, Larson and Busch, in that order, but that changed in a flash, as Busch dived to the inside in Turn 1, outdueled Larson for third and charged after Harvick for the second spot. NASCAR News Wire
Kurt Busch Strong-Arms Jimmie Johnson For Martinsville Win
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Kurt Busch Celebrates Victory
On Sunday at historic Martinsville Speedway, the driver known as "The Outlaw" committed highway robbery. Bullying his way past six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson with 10 laps left in Sunday’s STP 500 at the .526-mile short track, Kurt Busch held on to edge Johnson by 0.263 seconds, denying Johnson a ninth Martinsville victory. A Martinsville winner in 2002, Busch added a second victory at Sprint Cup’s oldest current venue to his resume. Busch’s 25th career victory was his first triumph in the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet and the first victory as a Sprint Cup crew chief for Daniel Knost.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished third in a race that produce a record 33 lead changes and a sixth consecutive different winner to open the 2014 season. Joey Logano ran fourth, followed by Marcos Ambrose and Matt Kenseth. Kevin Harvick, Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer and Paul Menard completed the top 10. Busch stole the victory from Johnson, despite an earlier collision with Brad Keselowski’s Ford that cost Keselowski 31 laps. "We’re done," Busch said tersely after running into the back of the No. 2 Team Penkse Ford, a car Busch drove for much of his career, to date.
That was far from the truth. Busch worked his way back into contention and restarted third on Lap 466 after caution for Carl Edwards spin in Turn 2. On Lap 473, he got the nose of his car under Johnson’s No. 48 Chevy and grabbed the lead. Ten laps later, Johnson — who led 296 of the 500 laps — regained the top spot with a slight nudge to Busch’s bumper, but Johnson fought a loose handling condition the rest of the way and couldn’t keep the Stewart-Haas Chevy behind him.
Busch, like Johnson, was driving a Hendrick Motorsports chassis powered by a Hendrick engine. "I didn’t know if we’d be able to do it," Busch said. "The 48 car is king here, him and the 24 (Jeff Gordon, who also has eight Martinsville wins). This is the old theory ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.’ I had a Hendrick chassis prepared by Stewart-Haas Racing, a Hendrick motor. So thanks to those guys and Chevrolet. "I’ve been on this journey for a while, and every time you come to Martinsville, you kind of draw a line, like ‘There’s no way I’ll be able to challenge those Hendrick guys or be up in the top 10.' These Stewart-Haas guys gave me a car to do it."
Johnson, who has been having uncharacteristic difficulty closing out races of late, did everything possible to keep Busch at bay. "That’s all I had," Johnson said. "I ran the rear tires off the car. I flipped every switch and knob I could to get front brake and turn fans off to try to help bring the balance back. But it was still too loose to get the win." NASCAR News Wire
Matt Crafton Wins Martinsville NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race In Overtime
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Matt Crafton Wins Overtime Race
In fading sunlight, in the second race of a Sunday doubleheader at Martinsville Speedway, Matt Crafton beat polesitter Darrell Wallace Jr. to the finish line to win the Kroger 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event under yellow because of a last-lap accident.
The reigning series champion sealed the victory on the second attempt at a green-white-checkered-flag finish in a race that went six laps past its scheduled distance of 256 laps at the .526-mile short track.
The win was Crafton’s first of the season, his first at Martinsville and his fourth in 318 career starts. To secure it, Crafton had to survive a series of late restarts that tested both his talent and his patience. Rookie Ben Kennedy ran third in a race that produced a record 17 lead changes. Johnny Sauter was fourth, followed by Ryan Blaney. The Kroger 250, postponed from Saturday because of rain, was run after the conclusion of Sunday’s STP 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
Crafton’s No. 88 Toyota started out sluggish but benefited from successful adjustments throughout the race. “At the beginning of the day, we were terrible,” said Crafton, who led 47 laps. “I’m not going to lie. We were terrible. We were really, really tight from the center (of the corner) off. I didn’t think we were going to get it right there on those first two runs, but that’s just the way these guys never give up. We made track bar adjustment, another track bar adjustment, air pressure adjustment and finally we got that thing going.”
Crafton grabbed the lead from Peters on Lap 208 and held the top spot until a caution for debris on the frontstretch slowed the field on Lap 225. The lead-lap trucks already had visited pit road under caution on Lap 193 for the final stops, and all the contenders stayed out on the track under the Lap 225 yellow and took the green for a restart on Lap 232, with Crafton leading the field to the stripe. Moments later, former series champion Ron Hornaday Jr., who had led 62 laps, slammed the wall between Turns 3 and 4 after contact from the Toyota of German Quiroga.
Crafton retained the lead after the subsequent restart, and after Peters and Wallace settled second place, with Peters prevailing on Lap 239, the No. 17 Toyota began chasing the No. 88 Tundra of the race leader. Gray Gaulding’s spin off Turn 2 on Lap 243, however, caused the eighth caution and set up the overtime finish. Erik Jones spun on the backstretch after contact from Sauter to foil the first attempt at a green-white-checkered. NASCAR News Wire
Lynda Petty Dies
Lynda Gayle Owens Petty, 72, one of the first women of NASCAR and its most beloved wife, mother and friend, passed away peacefully at her home in Level Cross, North Carolina today. She was surrounded by her family. Affectionately known as "Mrs. Lynda" to so many, Lynda Petty set a standard for being a loving, supportive and, when needed, an authoritative wife and mother. She also set the benchmark for being a leader in her local community while raising a family in the fast-growing sport of stock car racing. It was with strong will that Petty fought cancer over the past several years. It was the same determination that led her to make a difference as a Red Cross volunteer, a school volunteer, the president of the athletic booster club and a Girl and Boy Scout leader in her lifetime. She also served on the Randolph County School Board for 16 years and was on the board of the Randolph County Hospice.
Lynda helped start the Racing Wives Auxiliary and will always be remembered as the wife to Richard Petty. Their steadfast love endured trials that only a marriage of over 50 years can. Through triumph and heartache, Lynda Petty was the castle that supported a king in private and public moments. Lynda is preceded by grandson Adam K. Petty and is survived by her loving husband Richard; son, Kyle and daughters Sharon and husband Terry Farlow; Lisa and husband Charlie Luck; Rebecca and husband Brian Moffitt. In addition, she is survived by grandchildren Austin Petty and wife Sarah; Hannah and husband Brad Leonard; Montgomery and husband Randy Schlappi; Maggie and Kyle Farlow; Richard, Sarah and Margaret Luck; Helen, Thad and Harrison Moffitt, and great grandchildren Sullivan Mae Schlappi and Adam Christopher Stonewall Petty.
A private memorial service for family and friends will be held at Reverie Place in Randleman, North Carolina which Pastor Kenny Crosswhite will officiate. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the following:
Petty Family Foundation
311 Branson Mill Road
Randleman, N.C. 27317
A public memorial service will not be held and the family asks for privacy at this time. The family offered the following statement to the public.
"We wish to sincerely thank everyone who has supported us and our family throughout the years and at this time. We will forever love and miss a wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother and friend." NASCAR News Wire
Kyle Busch Escapes Tire Issues, Wins Auto Club 400 In Overtime
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Kurt Busch (right) Congratulates Brother Kyle On Win
In a race that saw tire problems turn the contest upside-down, Kyle Busch won Sunday’s Auto Club 400 in a green-white-checkered-flag finish that took the fifth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event of the year six laps past its scheduled distance. The first driver on four fresh tires for a restart on Lap 205 at Auto Club Speedway, Busch passed Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart on the next-to-last lap, bringing rookie Kyle Larson with him. Able to keep Larson behind him on the final lap, Busch crossed the finish line .214 seconds ahead of the 21-year-old, who had won the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at the two-mile track one day earlier. The victory was Busch’s second straight and third overall at Fontana, his first of the season and the 29th of his career. Kurt Busch, who like Stewart took right-side tires only on the final pit stop on Lap 200, ran third, followed by polesitter Matt Kenseth and Stewart.
Jamie McMurray, Brian Vickers, AJ Allmendinger, Paul Menard and Carl Edwards completed the top 10. “I knew four tires was going to win the race, so I’m glad (crew chief) Dave (Rogers) called that,” Busch said in Victory Lane. “There was some great racing up front between Tony and Kurt there. It was really interesting to watch that. I went into Turn 1 thinking I’m going to run the middle and then Tony started sliding off the bottom and I’m like, ‘Nope, not having it.’ I had to get some brake and cut my car to the left and drove underneath him and got him cleared off Turn 2, and I was able to keep Kyle Larson behind me.”
Though he ran second, Larson nevertheless earned Busch’s admiration in the process. “Man, what a shoe that boy is,” Busch said. “If he would have gotten alongside of me, it would have been a whale of a race. I drove off into Turn 3, but I heard ‘Car inside’ on my left. “If he drove it in further than I did, Jesus must have told him to stop… What an awesome race this track produced!”
Larson was surprised he was able to reach second place after restarting ninth in the bottom lane for the green-white-checker. “I was thinking I was going to line up eighth,” Larson said, “but then the 40 (Landon Cassill) stayed out, and I had to line up on the bottom, and I was disappointed because the bottom had been getting jammed up once we got to Turn 1. I was surprised--I just watched it on TV and it was pretty wild--we were four wide there into (Turn) 1. Came out in fourth there, I think, and then got to second off Turn 2 the next lap and thought I might have a shot at Kyle, depending on where he'd go into Turn 3. But he was good enough to keep it on the bottom and stay ahead of me. But we'll take second. Long race and definitely didn't expect to run second, so I'll take it and head back to North Carolina with a smile on my face.”
Until the final five laps, the race had all the makings of a routine victory by Jimmie Johnson, who had a commanding lead over Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon as the event approached the regulation distance of 400 miles. But Johnson, who led 104 laps, blew a left front tire and drove his car to pit road, handing Gordon the lead. No caution. -- Brad Keselowski suffered his third left rear tire failure a lap later but stayed out of harm’s way. No caution. The same fate befell Marcos Ambrose on the same lap. No caution. -- Finally, when Clint Bowyer’s Toyota spun on lap 198, thanks to a flat left rear tire, NASCAR called the caution that set up the two-lap dash to the finish.
The tire issues that surfaced during Saturday’s practice sessions—particularly in the left rear position—plagued drivers throughout the race, not just at the finish. Kevin Harvick caused the first caution on Lap 18 when his left rear tire blew. Harvick charged through the field and was running third on Lap 138 when another blown left rear forced him to pit road. With tire debris strewn across the backstretch, NASCAR called a caution on Lap 141, with Johnson in the lead.
Keselowski, who suffered two flat left rears during Saturday’s practice, had two more during the race but both yellow flags rescued him in both cases. Twice Keselowski brought the No. 2 Ford to pit road under caution with the tire soft, escaping a failure at speed that could have damaged the car. But the third failure, in the closing laps, dropped the 2012 series champion to 26th at the finish. The race winner, though, had no tire problems and suggested that other teams might have been overly aggressive in lowering tire pressures.
Notes: Gordon was shuffled back on the final restart and finished 13th… Johnson came home 24th, the last driver on the lead lap… Menard, who skipped Friday’s qualifying to be with his wife after the birth of their daughter, posted his ninth-place finish after starting from the rear of the field because of the driver change. Matt Crafton had qualified the car… Sam Hornish Jr. ran 17th in Denny Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota, after Hamlin left the track for a local hospital before the race to treat a sinus infection that impaired his vision. Hornish had been at the track on standby for Matt Kenseth, whose wife Katie is expecting the couple’s third daughter.NASCAR News Wire
Kyle Larson Wins His First Nationwide Series Race
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Larson Celebrates First Victory
Heralded NASCAR neophyte Kyle Larson finally had his day in the sun. When a cloud cover lifted with roughly 50 laps left in Saturday’s TreatMyClot.com 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Auto Club Speedway, Larson’s No. 42 Turner Scott Motorsports Chevrolet came to life. Larson, who had posted five second-place finishes in 37 previous NNS starts, grabbed the lead after a restart on Lap 135 of 150 and survived an intense battle against Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch to win for the first time in the Nationwide Series, arriving at the finish line 0.342 seconds ahead of Harvick, who edged Busch for second by 0.04 seconds.
Joey Logano, who led 96 laps, came home fourth, followed by Coors Light Pole Award winner Elliott Sadler. Chase Elliott, Matt Kenseth, Ty Dillon, Trevor Bayne and Regan Smith completed the top 10, leaving Smith and Bayne tied for the series points lead through five races. “I’m shaking still; this is awesome,” said Larson, who got an ice-water bath in Victory Lane. “I thought maybe we could get away [after the last restart], but the 54 (Busch) and 5 (Harvick) were really good behind us, and I had to race with those guys. Man, it was amazing. Those last 11 or 12 laps were the longest laps of my life… It was pretty cool to beat those guys. The 54 and the 22 (Joey Logano) have dominated the series for a while now, and Harvick’s with a good team. It was a blast.”
Larson, Busch and Harvick spent the last 16 laps dicing for position, with Busch actually leading Lap 145 before Larson charged back past him on the outside and stayed out front to the finish. For Harvick and Busch, the quality and intensity of the racing took some of the sting out of finishing second and third. “The fans won today,” Busch said, summing up the electric atmosphere of the closing laps.
With a rear axle housing that was skewed outside of NASCAR’s tolerances, Busch’s No. 54 Toyota failed to clear inspection before the end of the first round of knockout qualifying and started the race from the rear of the field. What might have been a daunting challenge to a lesser driver was a mere inconvenience to Busch, who advanced to 25th on the first lap and was 16th by the time he completed the second-green flag lap after an early caution for Jamie Dick’s collision with the Turn 3 wall on Lap 1. That was the start of Busch’s methodical march through the field. By Lap 8, Busch was 10th. On Lap 14, he passed Brian Scott for the fifth spot. On Lap 22, he grabbed second place from Kevin Harvick.
And when Logano had issues with the right front tire during a green-flag pit stop on Lap 41, Busch had the lead, with a margin of more than three seconds. Just as methodically as Busch had carved his way through the field, however, Logano cut the No. 54 Toyota’s advantage to nothing and retook the lead with a pass on Lap 61. After pit stops under caution for debris on the backstretch, Busch regained the top spot following a restart on Lap 72, moving past Logano to the inside. Contact in Turn 2 between the Chevrolets of Dylan Kwasniewski and Chase Elliott, which knocked Elliott into the outside wall, slowed the field for the third time and gave Logano a chance to regain the lead, which he did soon after a restart on Lap 78.
Logano took control of the race, despite a charge from Larson, who found warmer, slicker conditions more to his liking after the sun broke through the clouds as the race reached Lap 100 of a scheduled 150. Following a round of green-flag pit stops, Logano led Larson in second by 4.147 seconds on Lap 116, but the 21-year-old California native immediately began cutting into the deficit, chopping it down to 0.233 seconds by Lap 125. Larson had the lead by a nose when the cars crossed the stripe on Lap 128, but Logano regained the point a moment later, before NASCAR called the fourth caution when Josh Wise’s Chevrolet dropped fluid on the track.
Pit stops under the yellow scrambled the running order, putting Harvick in the lead for a restart on Lap 135, with Larson, Logano, Busch and Sadler lined up in second through fifth, respectively. Larson rocketed to the lead after taking the green flag and held off repeated challenges from Harvick and Busch to secure his first Nationwide Series victory.NASCAR News Wire
Edwards Wins Rain-Delayed, Action-Packed Bristol Cup Race
CIA Stock Photos
Kyle Busch Wins Third Straight At Bristol
Carl Edwards seemed to be cruising to victory in the final laps of Sunday's Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. But nothing would come easily this day or night for drivers, fans or track officials in a race delayed more than five hours by rain. Edwards had opened a lead of more than four seconds when the track's caution lights inexplicably came on with less than three laps remaining. Seconds later, a cloudburst released the hardest rain of the day or night. The race finished under caution and Edwards did prevail, finishing ahead of his teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Aric Almirola in a 1-2-3 sweep by Fords. "I did not want to see that caution," Edwards said. "Concern was not a strong enough word. So, I'm glad the rain came. I think there were some higher powers at work there."
NASCAR Vice President of Competition and Racing Development Robin Pemberton attributed the light malfunction to human error; in this case, humans bundled up against the cold in layers of clothing. "In the flag stand, it appears one of the flag people had leaned on the switch that is the manual override for the caution lights," Pemberton said. "When the flag stand realized this, the flagman threw the caution flag (six seconds later). After that happened, we froze the field from the tower." Pemberton said that the area around the override switch "wasn't secured properly" and suggested that NASCAR will learn a valuable lesson in guarding against future mishaps.
Of course, mishaps were the order of the day and night in a race delayed close to two hours at the outset, then for 3 hours, 19 minutes 124 laps into the race. Kevin Harvick, racing fourth with 50 laps remaining, left the track in flames. Matt Kenseth saw his fast car become even faster after his Toyota was rammed from behind and Kyle Busch seemed on his way to continuing his domination at Bristol until tire troubles led to his spin and eventual demise.
Edwards and crew chief Jimmy Fennig made the winning decision on a late-race pit stop, electing to stay on the track and hold off the field for the final 71 laps without the benefit of fresh tires. "We had only 17 laps on our tires," Fennig said. "The weather, at that time, wasn't a factor anymore, once the track became rubbered in. We knew the speed (of our car) was there." --/-- "I knew pretty quickly after restarting that not pitting was the right call," Edwards said. "We ran our fastest lap with 30-40 laps on the tires."
CIA Stock Photos
A Hot Night For Kevin Harvick At Bristol
Edwards wasn't sure his team would even be in position to challenge for the victory. "I can't believe we turned this around," Edwards said. "We were terrible on Saturday. Jimmy told me (our crew) worked until 3 a.m. on simulation stuff. We'd been struggling lately, so for us to come out here and run so well with the number of Fords out of our shop, that was big. (Now) we're in the Chase and we're going to go out and win this championship." Edwards has improved his finish each week this season since opening with a 17th in the Daytona 500. He was eighth at Phoenix and fifth last week at Las Vegas.
As the race wound down, Edwards was most concerned about Harvick, who led 28 laps and would have been restarting behind him on fresh tires. But Harvick's car began smoking with 50 laps to go. Harvick lost control, pounded the wall and climbed out of the car that was on fire after driving it to the garage. Jamie McMurray, who led 10 laps, took evasive action, suffered damage and finished 38th. Brad Keselowski, who'd led 40 laps, then ran into the back of McMurray and ended up 14th.
Matt Kenseth led the most laps -- 165 -- despite being rear-ended by Timmy Hill as the field was checking up for a caution on Lap 157. Even with extensive damage below the rear spoiler, Kenseth was in contention until his car lost handling on Lap 409. He finished 13th. Kyle Busch, who won Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series race for his record-setting 16th national touring series victory at Bristol, led 56 of the first 250 laps but fell out of contention after developing tire problems on Lap 275 and finished 29th.
Almirola's third-place finish was the best of his NASCAR Sprint Cup career, but he had visions of victory for Richard Petty Motorsports. "I saw it, right there at my fingertips on that one restart when I raced side-by-side with Carl," Almirola said. "When you can see it and taste it and you're that close, you wonder what could have went differently. But he had a lot better car than we did tonight." NASCAR News Wire