DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY
Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images
Sprint Cup Series Championship winner Kevin Harvick (C), driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, Nationwide Series Championship winner Chase Elliott (L), driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, and Camping World Truck Series Championship winner Matt Crafton (R), driver of the #88 Jeld-Wen/Menards Toyota, pose for a portrait after the NASCAR Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida
Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott And Ben Kennedy Take Rookie Honors In Respective NASCAR National Series
For the first time since the NASCAR Next initiative was created in 2011, three of its alumni captured the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Awards in NASCAR’s national series. Kyle Larson took home the honor in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Chase Elliott added the accolade to his resume in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and Ben Kennedy earned the recognition competing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
"The 2014 Sunoco Rookie of the Year class is a testament to the massive effort put towards developing our next generation of stars through the NASCAR Next initiative," said Jill Gregory, NASCAR senior vice president of Industry Services. "We congratulate all three honorees and look forward to watching them accomplish great things in the future."
The winner of last season’s NASCAR Nationwide Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award, Larson, 22, is only the sixth driver to also claim the honor in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He defeated runner-up Austin Dillon by 89 points behind eight top-five and 17 top-10 finishes. A graduate of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity (D4D) program, Larson placed second in three races and won a Coors Light Pole Award. He pilots the No. 42 Target Chevrolet SS for Chip Ganassi Racing.
Elliott – 18 years, 11 months and 18 days – became the youngest and first rookie champion in NASCAR national series history when he captured the NASCAR Nationwide Series title. The No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet driver won three races and ended his season on a streak of 14 top-10 finishes. A native of Dawsonville, Georgia, Elliott will return to the series next season to defend his title. He finished 47 points ahead of second-place Ty Dillon in the final NNS Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award standings.
Kennedy, 22, was the highest rookie finisher in a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series-best eight races. Kennedy tied Tyler Reddick atop the rookie standings, winning the tiebreaker thanks to a final championship points position of ninth. Kennedy drove his No. 31 Turner Scott Motorsports Chevrolet Silverado to a career-best third-place finish at Martinsville in March.
"Sunoco has been a proud supporter of NASCAR’s rising stars through the Sunoco Rookie of the Year program for the past decade," said Cynthia Archer, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, Sunoco. "This year’s award winners represent the youthful exuberance and competitive drive that define this award and we couldn’t be more excited to see what the future holds as their careers advance." // NASCAR News Wire
Harvick Wins At Homestead To Secure First NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship
The fastest driver doesn't always win a race—or a championship—but on Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Kevin Harvick did both. Driving a No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet that has been the class of the field for most of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, Harvick won Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 at the 1.5-mile intermediate track and claimed his first premier series championship after a three-lap drag race against underdog title contender Ryan Newman.
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Mike Helton Presents Kevin Harvick With The Sprint Cup
Harvick was so wrapped up in the championship battle that the victory in the race didn’t register right away. "I forgot we won the race -- how about that?" Harvick chuckled. "I think this Chase is about the best thing that has happened to this sport over the last decade. This is probably going to shorten the drivers’ careers, because it’s been so stressful, but I want to thank every single fan for sticking with this sport, and to the industry for working to get it right."
After the 13th caution slowed the field on Lap 263, the result of debris dripping from the No. 32 Ford of Blake Koch, Harvick led the field to green on Lap 265 of 267 with Newman beside him. Newman stayed to the inside of Harvick’s car through the first corner, but Harvick, on four fresh tires to Newman’s two, cleared the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet and pulled away to a half-second victory. Under NASCAR’s new elimination format for the Chase for the Sprint Cup, the driver who won five times, including Sunday, and led 2,137 laps throughout the season beat the driver who was winless with 41 laps led by a single point.
In his first season with SHR, Harvick won for the first time at Homestead and for the 28th time in his career. With the highest finisher among the Championship 4 contenders assured of the title, Denny Hamlin came home seventh, and Joey Logano ran 16th after a disastrous late-race pit stop. Harvick’s crew chief, Rodney Childers, made a critical call to bring Harvick to pit road for four tires under caution on Lap 249. With three cars staying on the track and eight others taking right-side tires only, Harvick restarted 12th, but two quick cautions fell his way.
Harvick made up six positions almost immediately and restarted sixth after the 12th caution for an accident involving Koch and J.J. Yeley on Lap 254. "I knew I needed to get a bunch of (positions)," Harvick said. "I was fortunate to start on the outside. The seas kind of parted there as I came off of Turn 2 and was about to get four or five of them; I don’t really know, but it was time to go for broke at that particular point. When the next caution came out, we were fortunate enough again to line up on the outside (for the restart on Lap 259). That was pretty much what we needed—to get the run on the outside down the backstretch."
On the final restart against Harvick, Newman said he contemplated the sort of all-or-nothing move he had used a week earlier against Kyle Larson to edge Jeff Gordon by one point for the final position in the Championship 4 Round. But Newman quickly thought better of the idea. "In the end, I just got down underneath him and he was close enough to me, took some of the air away from me," Newman said. "I could have kept it wide open and washed up into him, and it wasn't the right move. It wasn't what I would have wanted him to do to me. If we were close enough on the last lap, it might have been a different game, but I wasn't. I slipped off of Turn 4 coming to the white, and at that point it was pretty much over. I really was hoping he would slip a tire, blow a motor, something like that. That was our only hope. All those things go through your mind, but I had a pretty good run and cut down to the bottom and just ran out of racetrack, ran out of room, and he had the air—he had the line."
Hamlin, who forewent a pit stop on Lap 249 when most of the other lead-lap cars came to pit road, restarted in the lead on Lap 259, with Newman second and Harvick sixth, but Hamlin’s No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota quickly fell victim to cars on superior tires. By the time NASCAR called the 13th caution on Lap 262, Hamlin had dropped to third behind Harvick and Newman, and he fell back to seventh in the final three-lap run.
"For me, there's not one thing I would have done different," Hamlin said. "I mean, we brought a car that was capable of winning. I just don't know how to express it enough. Sometimes breaks go your way; sometimes they don't. They just didn't go our way. There's not much else we could have done with the strategy that we played with the cautions that came out. I wouldn't do a thing different. I think we overachieved greatly by being here, and we haven't had the speed to compete for race wins all year, and we did today, on the race that really mattered. Just came up short."
Logano’s first flirtation with a title came to an inglorious end when the No. 22 Team Penske Ford fell off the jack as the crew was changing left-side tires under caution on Lap 249. Last out of the pits, Logano restarted 29th on Lap 253 and could recover only to 16th by the checkered flag. "It’s hard to be proud right now after coming home wherever we finished in this race," said Logano, who gets credit for fourth in the championship standings despite winning five races. "I don’t even know what that is. I don’t even care. You don’t get shots at championships often. Hopefully we get another next year. This car had a lot of wins and a lot of top fives, and it doesn’t mean a thing."
Gordon, the Coors Light Polesitter, led 161 laps, but came to pit road for tires on Lap 256 and wasn’t a factor the rest of the way, finishing 10th.
Notes: Kyle Larson finished 13th and was the runaway winner of the Sunoco Rookie of the Year award after an outstanding freshman season… Marcos Ambrose finished 27th in his final race for Richard Petty Motorsports before returning to his native Australia to race V8 Supercars for owner Roger Penske… The victim of an early accident, Carl Edwards ran 34th in his final trip in the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford before moving to Joe Gibbs Racing next season. It was also the last race as a crew chief for Edwards’ veteran pit boss, Jimmy Fennig… Chevrolet won its 12th straight manufacturers’ championship and 38th overall. // NASCAR News Wire
Kenseth Holds Off Larson For Nationwide Win At Homestead, As Penske Wins Owner’s Title
Charging away from a pack of pursuers on the final restart, Matt Kenseth scored his first NASCAR Nationwide Series win since October of last year in Saturday’s Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Chase Elliott, who had clinched the driver’s championship last Saturday in Phoenix, finished 17th after scraping the outside wall late in the race. Brad Keselowski delivered the Nationwide Series owner’s championship to Roger Penske with an eighth-place result in the No. 22 Team Penske Ford.
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Kenseth Celebrates With Family and Crew
In a mere formality, Elliott also received Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors, making the him the first driver to win both a rookie title and a series championship in the same year in any of NASCAR’s top three national series. At age 18, Elliott also is the youngest national touring series champion in NASCAR history.
After losing the lead to Kyle Larson after a restart on Lap 199 of a scheduled 200, Kenseth got a second chance when NASCAR threw the 11th caution of the race for a multicar wreck behind the leader moments before Larson was to take the white flag signaling the final lap, which would have made him a winner under the caution. Instead, Kenseth pulled ahead from the outside lane after a restart on Lap 205 and took the checkered flag on the sixth lap of overtime. Kyle Busch won a drag race to the finish line to take the runner-up spot from Larson, who held third. Ryan Blaney and rookie Chris Buescher completed the top five.
Kenseth won for Joe Gibbs Racing in the final outing with the company for crew chief Kevin Kidd, who moves to Roush Fenway Racing next year as director of competition in the Sprint Cup Series. "It’s been a long time since I won a race in anything, so just happy for Kevin," Kenseth said. "Happy to send him off with a win here. That was pretty cool. Kyle got around me on that second-to-last restart, but when he chose the bottom there, and I had Kyle (Busch) behind me, I knew we had a shot. I just had to do a better job than I did the time before, so luckily, we got that one last chance to redeem ourselves."
Larson, who led 111 laps, spun his tires slightly on the final restart, allowing Kenseth to take the advantage. "I had good restarts up there until the last 50 laps or so," Larson said. "Then I finally got a good one underneath Matt (on Lap 199) and was able to get to the lead… I was about 15 feet short of the win. Then we got the yellow, and I thought the 12 (Blaney) had been getting really good restarts, so I wanted to start in front of him (in the bottom lane). "Spun my tires a little bit, and the 20 (Kenseth) was hanging there. I was side-drafting down the frontstretch, and he was able to swerve at me and get me shaken off him. That spun my tires into (Turn) 1, and got me sideways. I was three-wide there, and that was all the 20 needed to win."
Penske won the owner’s championship with five different drivers taking turns in the No. 22 Ford: Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Michael McDowell and Alex Tagliani. The championship was the fourth for Penske in the last five years (2010 Nationwide driver’s title with Keselowski, 2012 Sprint Cup title with Keselowski and back-to-back NNS owner’s championships). "Everyone did so much to make this happen, and obviously it didn't come down until the last lap there until we knew we had it," Penske said. "Two years in a row, I think we had four championships here over the last few years, and that's really important to us as we go forward." // NASCAR News Wire
Wallace Wins At Homestead, As Crafton Claims Second Straight Truck Series Title
After breathtaking three-wide racing during the final 20-lap green-flag run, Darrell "Bubba" Wallace Jr. held off hard-charging Keystone Light Polesitter Kyle Larson to win Friday night’s Ford EcoBoost 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Behind the wild battle for the victory, Matt Crafton ran ninth and won an unprecedented second straight series title with room to spare—by 21 points.
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Wallace Displays Unusual Trophy
Timothy Peters came home third, followed by Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney, runner-up to Crafton for the series championship. Busch won the NCWTS owner’s championship in the No. 51 Toyota he drove on Friday night. "Toward the end, battling the two Kyles—the (Sprint) Cup stars—it was tough," Wallace said. "But I didn’t get too excited, didn’t get too down. I kept a cool head and stayed patient and was able to come out on top."
Wallace won his fourth race of the season and fifth of his career in his final ride in the No. 54 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota, as the organization picked up its 14th victory in 22 races. Signed to Joe Gibbs Racing, Wallace is expected to move up to the NASCAR Nationwide Series next year. "It is going to be sad to see him go," Busch said, "but we’ve got another great shoe that’s going to be able to fit into that role really, really good with Erik Jones. It’s not that I’m saying good-bye, but I’m wishing him the best next year in what he gets to do, and I’m excited about his growth and opportunity to move up to the Nationwide Series."
Wallace said he hopes to get plans for 2015 settled soon. "I wish things were finalized," Wallace said. "We’re continuing to work hard to find my future plans. For me, I’m just going to go play some golf while I’m down here in Miami and enjoy this win, enjoy the offseason. But as far as plans, we’re continuing to work hard."
As he closed on Wallace in the final laps, Larson said he contemplated trying the same sort of banzai move Ryan Newman had used on Larson on the final lap of last Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix, where Newman secured the final spot in Sunday’s Championship Round at Homestead by a single point. "I thought about it -- very quickly," Larson said. "But I figured that would definitely be the wrong thing to do, especially in a Truck race where I’m just kind of out there to have fun, and Bubba’s out there to try to gain points, or whatever, and get the win."
Blaney’s waning championship hopes suffered a blow when his shifter broke, causing him to stall his No. 29 Brad Keselowski Racing Ford exiting his pit stall on Lap 72. Blaney dropped to 14th for the subsequent restart on Lap 76 and quickly worked his way up to ninth, three positions behind Crafton in the running order. By then, only 21 trucks remained on the lead lap, providing Crafton with a comfortable margin of error, given that Crafton entered the race needing a finish of 21st or better to claim the series title.
Using vise-grips to control the broken shifter, Blaney was fourth off pit road for a restart on Lap 104, after the fifth caution of the night. His hard-fought top five wasn’t enough to overcome the 25-point lead Crafton held entering the race. During that same pit stop, Larson fell from first to third on pit road, after having led 96 laps to that point.Wallace grabbed the lead from Busch on Lap 119 of 134 and held it the rest of the way, as Larson charged into second place and closed the gap to .294 seconds at the finish.
Note: Ben Kennedy won the Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in the series. Kennedy and Tyler Reddick tied in the rookie standings, with Kennedy winning the title because of his higher position in driver championship points. // NASCAR News Wire
Kevin Harvick Advances To Season Finale With Dominating Win At Phoenix
A victory at Phoenix -- and a dominating one at that -- was exactly what Kevin Harvick needed to keep his hopes for a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship alive. But a second-place finish in Sunday’s Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 did Jeff Gordon no good, thanks to a final-lap banzai run by Ryan Newman, who passed rookie Kyle Parson for the 11th position on the final lap to eliminate Gordon from the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup by a single point.
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Harvick Sprays The Champagne - Drinks The Beer
Polesitter Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano, who shared the Chase lead entering the Eliminator Round’s final event, both recovered from bizarre errors on pit road to join Harvick and Newman in next Sunday’s championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The driver who finishes highest among those four will claim the 2015 series title. "Wow, I guess that’s what it feels like to hit a walk-off in extra innings there," said Harvick, who completed the season sweep at Phoenix with his fourth victory in the last five races there. "I could tell that we were probably going to have to win, because everybody was running up in the front of the pack that we were racing against. That was our goal coming in here and that’s really the goal every time you come to Phoenix.
"This place has just been phenomenal for me personally and for this team this year. To do that in front of all your almost hometown fans (Harvick is from Bakersfield, Calif.) and all these people who have been rooting for me since the mid-‘90s is pretty unbelievable. Man, I think this says a lot about our team. I think we have been through a lot this year. They put our backs against the wall. We put it in Victory Lane and get to go on."
As such, Harvick goes from desperation mode -- needing a victory at Phoenix to advance to the season finale -- to the role of favorite at Homestead, given the speed his cars have shown all season long.
Asked to handicap the championship race, Gordon was emphatic, and for good reason. He chased Harvick to the finish line and fell 1.636 seconds behind in the final 12-lap run. "I like Harvick," Gordon asserted. "Yeah, I think Harvick looks really good… the guy has led the most laps all year long, guys. It's not me that's saying this. I do think that Denny won that race (at Homestead) last year, so he can be really, really strong there. But Kevin looked good there in the test (in late October), and, man, they've just been so strong lately, and it seems like they've gotten some of the bugs worked out in their team that they had early in the year. And I think if they do that next week, they're going to be really tough to beat like they were today."
In winning for the fourth time this season and the 27th time in his career, Harvick led 264 of 312 laps, 40 more circuits than he led in a dominating win at the one-mile track on Mar. 2. In addition to Gordon, third-place finisher Matt Kenseth, fourth-place Brad Keselowski and 15th place Carl Edwards failed to advance to the final race with their title eligibility intact. Kenseth fell three points short of Newman in the final tally. Conversely, Hamlin and Logano overcame potential Chase-ending mistakes to claim their positions in the final race.
On Hamlin’s first pit stop, under caution on Lap 30, the rear tire changer’s air gun inadvertently knocked the valve stem off and flattened the tire. Hamlin returned to the pits and restarted 36th. Twice during the race, he fell a lap down to Harvick but took advantage of two free passes as the highest-scored lapped car and ultimately finished fifth. The crew gained three positions for Hamlin on his final stop, from 11th to eighth, even though five drivers stayed out on older tires. Hamlin parlayed his improved track position into a top five.
Logano was penalized when he dragged a fuel can that had not disengaged from the coupler out of his pit stall under caution on Lap 123. Like Hamlin, Logano lost a lap to Harvick but took advantage of a "lucky dog" before a restart on Lap 206 and rallied to finish sixth. Those comebacks gave Logano and Hamlin more than enough margin to qualify for the championship race.
"I think Denny and I had the exact same day out there," Logano observed. "Both of us had a little issue on pit road and got stuck back there, went down a lap, (and) we recovered and we finished fifth and sixth. We really kept our cool throughout the day. I think that was important. We were able to get the lucky dog, then had some damage avoiding the 18's (Kyle Busch’s) crash, was able to fix that and recover again to get ourselves back in.
"Definitely a drama filled day for sure, not what we wanted. We were hoping for just a normal, uneventful day to just get a nice top 10 is all we needed—which we ended up doing, but it was definitely eventful along the way. Proud of my team, proud of everyone to get us to this point, and we'll have some fun next week, go for a championship."
Amidst all the uncertainty, one thing is guaranteed at Homestead: with Harvick, Hamlin, Logano and Newman competing for the title, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will have a first-time champion. // NASCAR News Wire
Brad Keselowski And Chase Elliott Winners At Phoenix
Brad Keselowski took advantage of a late-race caution to edge Kyle Busch for a Nationwide Series victory at Phoenix International Raceway, but Chase Elliott was the day's big winner at Saturday’s DAV 200 - Honoring America’s Veterans.
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Brad Keselowski Celebrates Phoenix Nationwide Win
Elliott, the 18-year-old son of 1988 Sprint Cup champion Bill Elliott, finished fifth to clinch the NASCAR Nationwide Series title, becoming the first rookie to accomplish the feat. The Elliott family joined the Pettys, Pearsons, Jarretts and Earnhardts in becoming families with father-son national touring series champions. Elliott, who won races at Texas, Darlington and Chicagoland this season, did what he needed to, finishing ahead of JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith, who entered the race 48 points behind Elliott in the series standings and ran 10th.
Elliott said he wasn’t sure how to celebrate his series triumph. "I wasn’t sure if it was OK to do a burnout lap or not," he said. "But I did one anyway because I was too excited not to. "I never would have even believed this was in my future. At the beginning of this season I had only run a couple of truck races. I feel lot of this is just due to the group of guys I was able to work with. Those guys were bringing me super-fast cars every week."
Elliott’s NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet did what Busch’s Toyota could not do -- survive a green-white-checkered finish after Alex Bowman was slow on the track, bringing out a race-changing caution flag with slightly more than a lap to go. To that point, Busch had been dominant, seemingly on his way to his eighth win in 25 starts this season by leading 187 of the race’s 206 laps.
But Keselowski had other ideas, swooping to the inside and driving past Busch in Turn 1 of the final lap to prevent Busch from winning his fourth consecutive Nationwide start at Phoenix. "We didn’t give up," Keselowski said. "Kyle was really fast -- probably a 10th (of a second) or two faster than everybody. Then, that yellow came out and I really don’t know what happened. I think we grabbed a gear and he slipped. It was a little bit surreal. I really didn’t even know the race was over. We were low on gas in that whole (end-of-race) situation."
Busch was similarly at a loss for words. "The Monster Energy Camry was faster than everyone else – just not at the right time," said Busch, who said he knew he was in trouble when Keselowski’s car "cut better than mine in Turns 3 and 4. I tried to let him go into (Turn) 1 and cut back underneath, but my (car) wouldn’t turn," Busch said. "(Right there) his stuff doesn’t turn but it still turned better than ours 'cuz he still got me." Neither Keselowski nor Busch are eligible for the series title because they are full-time Sprint Cup Series drivers.
For much of the race, Smith appeared primed to put his teammate’s title hopes on hold. But Smith struggled after leaving the pits with 29 laps to go after taking left side tires on a yellow-flag pit stop. Elliott leaped from ninth to sixth in the running order and held serve the rest of the way. Busch took fresh tires during that same caution and restarted fifth. The strategy seemed to pay off as he easily got around Keselowski, Elliott Sadler and Bowman, each of whom elected to forego the pits on that final stop.
But Keselowski made it happen in the final two laps of his Nationwide Series campaign. "We have a great team," said Keselowski, who did not finish worse than fourth in any of his 10 Nationwide starts this season. "I'm proud to be a part of it. It's been a phenomenal year and I'm going to remember this one for a long time." // NASCAR News Wire
Erik Jones Repeats In Phoenix Truck Race As Second Power Failure Halts Action
With lights flickering around Phoenix International Raceway, polesitter Erik Jones won Friday night’s Lucas Oil 150 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race when the second power failure of the evening halted the race after 126 of the a scheduled 150 laps. The clear class of the field, Jones led 114 of those 126 laps. Though the lights came back on after the second stoppage, NASCAR called the race because of the possibility that the power would fail again while the trucks were racing at full speed, as had just happened on Lap 124. Jones, who won the same race last year, picked up his fourth career victory and his third of the season.
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Series leader Matt Crafton ran second and extended his advantage over fourth-place Ryan Blaney to 25 points. crafton can become the first driver to win back-to-back Truck Series championships if he finishes 21st or better in the season finale next Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Jones, who non Thursday announced a full-time NCWTS deal with Kyle Busch Motorsports for 2015, was confident he could have kept Crafton behind him, had the race gone the full distance. "I felt pretty confident about it," Jones said. "I think that we would have been able to definitely hold him off. I felt like we had by far the best truck. "He could run 10 laps pretty and maintain about five (car-lengths) back to us. Then it seemed like we could just kind drive away inch by inch at that point. I didn’t have a doubt in my mind that, if we were to go back racing for the last 20 (laps), that we would have been able to hold him off."
Though he never led a lap, Crafton thought he could have gotten past Jones on the next restart. "It’s a damn shame that the lights went out," Crafton said. "I guarantee it was going to be exciting on the next restart." Cole Custer ran third, followed by Blaney and Ben Rhodes, who was making his fourth start in the series.
Delayed for an hour by a major power outage in Phoenix’s West Valley, the race was slowed again as soon as it started by a chain-reaction wreck that sidelined the trucks of German Quiroga, John Wes Townley and Justin Jennings—before they reached the start/finish line on the opening lap. The race didn’t go green again until Lap 19 -- and not for long. Two laps later, Rhodes spun to bring out the second caution. Moments after the next restart on Lap 27, Spencer Gallagher spun underneath the Toyota of Timothy Peters, knocking Peters truck into the outside wall and collecting the Tundra of Jeb Burton.
All told, for 28 of the first 33 laps, the field circulated under yellow. The fourth caution, on Lap 39, also brought a red flag, after Joey Coulter’s Chevrolet blew a tire, slammed into the outside wall and had to be carted off the racing surface on a roll-back.
After a restart on Lap 46, however, the race settled into a rhythm, as Jones, who had led from the outside, stretched his advantage over Crafton to more than two seconds before the start of a cycle of green-flag pit stops 80 laps into the race. The race stayed caution-free until Lap 100, when contact from John Hunter Nemechek spun Brennan Newberry’s Chevy in Turn 4. By then only six trucks remained on the lead lap, but with a free pass to Ben Kennedy and wave-arounds by Austin Dillon, Blaney, Custer and Johnny Sauter, 11 trucks restarted on the lead lap with 43 circuits left in the race.
During the long green-flag run, sixth-place finisher Darrell Wallace Jr., who had pitted under caution on Lap 41, inherited the lead from Jones on Lap 92, when Jones brought his Tundra to pit road for the first time. But when Wallace, Rhodes and Bryan Silas pitted under caution on Lap 103, Jones was back in the lead for a restart on Lap 111 with Crafton beside him. Jones maintained his advantage until the power failed again, plunging the track into darkness as the trucks raced on Lap 124. Shortly thereafter, for safety reasons, NASCAR called the race. // NASCAR News Wire
Johnson Wins At Texas; Keselowski And Gordon Brawl On Pit Road
It happens every fall, at least in recent years. Jimmie Johnson won the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway for the third straight year, holding off runner-up Kevin Harvick and third-place Brad Keselowski after Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 went to two overtimes. The action in the second race of the Chase’s Eliminator Round was scintillating enough, but it couldn’t match the intensity of a post-race brawl on pit road that left Keselowski and Jeff Gordon bruised and bloodied.
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Jimmie Johnson Celebrates In Victory Lane
Johnson, who was eliminated from the Chase two weeks ago at Talladega, led the field to the green flag on Lap 340, the second attempt at a green-white-checkered-flag finish, with Keselowski to his outside. As both drivers rolled through the first two corners wide open, Johnson inched ahead, ultimately clearing Keselowski’s Ford and pulling away. Harvick passed Keselowski for second place but couldn’t catch Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet, which crossed the finish line .513 seconds ahead of Harvick’s No. 4 car.
But it was the first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish that caused all the controversy and helped to scramble the Chase standings with only next Sunday’s event at Phoenix International Raceway (3 p.m. ET on ESPN) left to determine which four drivers race for the series championship Nov. 16 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Gordon was the race leader at the time and picked the outside lane for a restart on Lap 335 with Johnson to his inside. Keselowski restarted third and tried to split the two Hendrick Motorsports drivers -- in what Harvick would later call "bulldoze mode" -- and ran out of room.
Contact from Keselowski’s car cut Gordon’s left rear tire, causing Gordon to spin on the backstretch, which in turn brought out the record 13th caution of the race. Gordon finished 29th and dropped from first to fourth in the Chase standings, just one point clear of 25th-place finisher and Coors Light Polesitter Matt Kenseth in fifth. "We drove down into Turn 1, and he just decided to body-slam us and cut our left-rear tire," an irate Gordon said after wading through a mass of crewmen to get to Keselowski. "It ruined our night. It ruined our chances, ruined our night, might have even ruined our Chase hopes. It’s just uncalled for. I had to show my displeasure. It got ugly down there, obviously, and you know that’s alright. A lot of things are going to happen in the next couple of weeks."
If Gordon had issues with the way Keselowski raced him, the driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford was unapologetic. "I'm not trying to dish out something that I couldn't take myself," Keselowski said. "But these guys have their own code, and they race differently than that. That's their right. We'll go through these battles. I've gone through them before and come out stronger. I'll go through them again and come out stronger, a better race car driver. But what I'm not going to do is back down. I'm not going to get in the spot where I was in 2013 where, you know, I tried to be exactly what they all wanted me to be, because what they want me to be is a loser, and I'm not here to lose. I'm here to win. That means I'm going to have to drive my car, harder, stronger, faster than everybody out there. That's what I feel like I did today."
In Victory Lane, savoring his fourth win of the season, his record fourth victory at Texas and the 70th of his career, Johnson could only shake his head at the unplanned fireworks after the race. "I saw a little bit on the big screen going down the back straightaway," said Johnson. "I would definitely have to go to the tape and watch and see what happened there. I know that second-to-last restart, I got hit from behind and I know Brad got to my outside, and I guess in the process of running into me and getting to the outside lane he ruffled some feathers. Just an exciting night for us. We had a very fast race car, led a lot of laps (191 of 341). Those cautions at the end, one restart would help me, the other would hurt me -- and in the end we got it done."
The wild action at Texas, which saw 12 of the 13 cautions occur after the halfway point, left the Chase wide open, with all eight eligible drivers within an 18-point range. Joey Logano recovered from a spin to finish 12th and shares the Chase lead with Denny Hamlin, who ran 10th. Ryan Newman is third in points, two behind Logano and Hamlin, after a 15th-place finish that could have been better, but for a tire rub resulting from contact on a late restart.
Gordon is fourth, 12 out of the lead and one point ahead of Kenseth and Carl Edwards, who rallied from two laps down, avoided the bumping and banging on the track and finished an unlikely ninth. Keselowski heads to Phoenix seventh in the standings, 17 points out of first place and one point ahead of Harvick in eighth. With at least three of the four championship-eligible positions in the final race to be determined on points, none of the eight drivers goes to Phoenix with any degree of security.
Notes: Kyle Busch’s bid for a Texas weekend sweep of NASCAR’s top three series fizzled early. The winner of Friday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race and Saturday’s Nationwide Series event was lapped by Johnson on Lap 125, but he recovered to finish fourth…
Kenseth became the all-time lap leader at Texas Motor Speedway during the opening run, leading the first 53 laps and 59 all told to bring his career total at Texas to 834, surpassing Tony Stewart’s 801. // NASCAR News Wire
Kyle Busch Wins Nationwide Race At Texas To Set Up Possible Weekend Sweep
Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage may need a broom as well as a pair of six-guns in Victory Lane on Sunday, after Kyle Busch completed the second leg of a possible sweep by winning Saturday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge. In winning his seventh NASCAR Nationwide Series race of the season, his seventh in 18 starts at Texas, the 70th of his career and the 100th NNS event for Joe Gibbs Racing, Busch led 116 of 200 laps in completing the second leg of a possible weekend sweep at the 1.5-mile speedway.
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Kyle Busch Bows To His Fans
On Friday night, Busch took the checkered flag in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, and on Sunday he’ll try to record the second weekend trifecta of his career in the AAA Texas 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race (3 p.m. ET on ESPN), the second event in the Eliminator Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Busch beat polesitter Joey Logano to the finish line by 1.561 seconds in the 300-mile event. Logano could keep up with Busch in the short runs but began to lose ground as each fuel run progressed.
The combination of Busch’s long-run car and his migration to the high line at the high-banked speedway was too much for Logano to overcome. Busch saw his own Kyle Busch Motorsports driver Darrell Wallace Jr. run the top successfully in the Truck race on Friday and took the lesson to heart.
"That was just something we found today -- actually (Friday) night a little, to be honest with you," Busch said. "Bubba Wallace went up there and he was really fast as well, too, up there. I took a little bit from that and also what I learned in that race as well. I never got as high as Bubba did, but I got somewhat up there. Just put that to today and was able to use it to our advantage. It felt really good to run up there and be fast like that and have good speed. Hopefully, some of that comes in (on Sunday)."
Busch will be trying to duplicate the feat he accomplished in August 2010 at Bristol, where he won races in Trucks, Nationwide and Cup. "The opportunity for that tomorrow would be something special," Busch said. "I’d cherish it as much as the first one… You don’t’ get very many opportunities to capitalize on all three."
Ryan Blaney, Logano’s Team Penske teammate, finished third, followed by series leader Chase Elliott, who extended his margin in the standings to 48 points over 11th-place finisher Regan Smith. If he maintains that advantage after next Saturday’s race at Phoenix, Elliott will clinch the series championship in the next-to-last race of his rookie season.
Matt Kenseth came home fifth, with Brian Scott, Austin Dillon and Kevin Harvick behind him. Elliott Sadler got credit for a ninth-place finish after turning his No. 11 Toyota over to relief driver Clint Bowyer under caution on Lap 9. Bowyer had qualified the car, but Sadler started the race despite suffering from a severe bout of intestinal flu and accompanying nausea that had sidelined him for time trials.
With all the back-and-forth between Busch’s No. 54 Toyota and Logano’s No. 22 Ford, Logano was hoping for a late-race caution to set up a short run, but the race stayed green for the final 63 laps. "Kyle and I had a heck of a race, that’s for sure," Logano said. "We were able to catch up to him and pass him, but then after about 20 laps or so, it was like a light switch. The car would just switch to loose, and he would go by me and drive away. That’s what ultimately beat us, having a long run like that at the end."
Hard luck continued to haunt Trevor Bayne, who had passed Logano for the lead on Lap 34, only to slam the Turn 2 wall 15 laps later. As Bayne was rolling through the center of Turns 1 and 2, he cut to the inside to pass a lapped car. At that instant, the car apparently hit a piece of debris on the track, deflating the right front tire and sending Bayne’s No. 6 Ford rocketing into the outside wall.
The car burst into flames and continued through Turn 2 trailing a plume of fire behind it. Bayne escaped the inferno unhurt, but the car -- ne of his best of the year -- was destroyed. "It is never good to pop a right front tire, or whatever we did there," Bayne said after leaving the infield care center. "Whether it was a line or tire -- I think it was a tire -- it’s never a good time, but especially not when you have the best car you have ever had in your career. That thing was on a rail. I have never had a car so dominant, especially at the Nationwide level. It was easy today for the time we were on the race track. The first couple laps I was really loose and needed a small adjustment, but, man, I think we had a great shot to win this race today. My guys have worked so hard all season long and they deserve a win and some cowboy hats here. I don’t even know what to say about it. It just blows your mind that something like that can happen on such a great day." // NASCAR News Wire
Kyle Busch Powers To Camping World Truck Series Win At Texas
After an astounding run toward the front after a late restart in Friday night’s Winstar World Casino and Resort 350 at Texas Motor Speedway, Kyle Busch took the checkered flag under caution at the end of a green-white-checkered-flag run to the finish of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race. In a wild final two laps that left ThorSport Racing teammates Jeb Burton and Johnny Sauter at odds on pit road, Burton finished second, followed by Timothy Peters, polesitter Tyler Reddick and series leader Matt Crafton.
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Kyle Busch Celebrates Texas Truck Series Victory
Sauter went spinning through the infield grass after what appeared to be incidental contact from Burton on Lap 145 of a scheduled 147 to cause the caution that set up the green-white-checkered finish and sent the race five laps beyond its posted distance. The victory was Busch’s seventh of the season, his third at Texas and the 42nd of his career. What made the win possible was Busch’s dramatic surge from ninth to third on the penultimate restart on Lap 143, after five drivers stayed out on old tires and three others took two tires or no tires on their final pit stops under the fifth caution.
Busch wasn’t worried about the outcome until he realized he had miscounted the number of trucks that would restart ahead of him on Lap 143. "I thought when I saw four trucks out there (that had stayed out)… I only counted four, and then all of a sudden the 15 (Mason Mingus) popped up, and that made it five," Busch said. "But when I counted four, that was going to put us eighth on the outside, but then the 15 was there, and so it was ninth on the inside. I thought the 17 (Peters) was in the catbird seat there. I figured he had the perfect strategy -- two tires, and he was going to be on the outside (restarting sixth), get through those guys and get out front."
As it turned out, Busch drove up the middle after the restart and passed Peters for second right before caution flew on Lap 145 for Sauter’s trip through the grass. As Busch would say later, his dramatic run to the front was essentially a case of "close your eyes and hold on." Driving up through the middle there, the seas sort of parted ways a little bit, and they were already three-wide, and I’m like, ‘There’s a gap there—I’m taking it.’ And that put us four-wide. But in those situations, with that many laps to go, you’ve just got to do it."
Crafton’s two closest pursuers in the series standings, Ryan Blaney and Darrell Wallace Jr., both had issues on Friday night, but Wallace got by far the worse of the exchange, as both his engine and his championship hopes expired in the same instant. As Wallace was chasing Busch, his car owner, from the second position on Lap 106, his engine erupted in a plume of smoke and dropped a stream of oil on the race track. Wallace took his No. 54 Toyota to the garage and finished 26th, falling 43 points behind Crafton with two races left in the season. Blaney was forced to change batteries under caution on Lap 77 and fell to 16th for a restart on Lap 82 but rallied to finish ninth and minimized the damage to his position in the standings. Blaney remained second, 23 points behind Crafton.
Note: With Busch’s victory, Toyota clinched its seventh manufacturer’s championship in the Camping World Truck Series… Busch has now led laps in 21 consecutive NCWTS starts. // NASCAR News Wire
NBC Sports Group Adds Krista Voda As NASCAR Host
NBC Sports Group announced today that Krista Voda has signed a multi-year agreement to serve as host of NBC Sports’ upcoming NASCAR Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series pre- and post-race coverage, beginning in 2015. Her on-air duties will also include regular appearances as host of NASCAR AMERICA on NBCSN, as well as a range of assignments across NBC Sports and NBC Olympics. The announcement was made today by Sam Flood, Executive Producer, NBC Sports and NBCSN.
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Krista Voda At The 2013 NASCAR Awards Banquet
"Krista is a talented host that has established a strong connection with NASCAR viewers over the course of an already impressive career," said Flood. "Her passion for the sport and comprehensive grasp of its stars, personalities and history will provide for an engaging and informative race day experience for the fans."
Krista’s résumé is among the strongest in NASCAR broadcasting. When she joins NBC Sports in 2015, it will mark her 14th continuous year covering the sport on network television. She is the current host of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series pre-race show for Fox Sports, and was the first female to ever host NASCAR’s Daytona Duels, as well as the NASCAR All-Star Race in Charlotte. She recently concluded her eighth season as a pit reporter for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series coverage on Fox and has hosted or co-hosted every NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction ceremony, many NASCAR Awards Banquets, and several Fox Sports studio shows. Outside of motorsports, Krista has an impressive breadth of experience, including NFL sideline reporting, and on-air contributions to numerous major sporting events, including postseason MLB broadcasts, Bowl Championship Series coverage, the Kentucky Derby, multiple NCAA men’s basketball tournaments and the PGA Championship.
"This role is a dream opportunity for me and I'm honored to be a part of NBC’s return to NASCAR," said Voda. "We say it often, but it's true: NASCAR is more than a sport, it’s a community. I’ve been blessed, for many years, to stand alongside colleagues who I also consider dear friends. I’m looking forward to this new chapter and the chance to share my knowledge and enthusiasm for storytelling."
On July 23, 2013, NASCAR and NBC Sports Group reached a comprehensive agreement that grants NBCUniversal exclusive rights to the final 20 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, final 19 NASCAR XFINITY Series events, select NASCAR Regional & Touring Series events and other live content, beginning in 2015.
With this partnership, NBC’s 20 Sprint Cup race schedule includes a designation as the exclusive home to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, when the elite national series races through its final 10 events of the season. The Chase culminates with the season-ending championship event, which returns to network television in 2015 for the first time since 2009. Of NBC Sports Group’s 20 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events, seven will be carried on NBC annually, with 13 airing on NBCSN. Four of NBC Sports Group’s 19 NASCAR XFINITY Series races will air on NBC, with 15 airing on NBCSN.
NASCAR AMERICA premiered in February, following Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Daytona 500 victory and NBC Sports Group’s multi-platform coverage of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. The weekday 30-minute news and highlights program is hosted primarily by NASCAR on NBC lead race announcer Rick Allen and features regular appearances by NBC Sports NASCAR analyst Jeff Burton, reporters Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast and Nate Ryan, as well as guest analysts such as Kyle Petty, Bobby Labonte, Wally Dallenbach and Frank Stoddard.
In addition to NASCAR’s Sprint Cup and NASCAR XFINITY Series races, NBC also obtained exclusive rights to practice and qualifying sessions for NBC’s national series events during their portion of the season, as well as rights to broadcast the NASCAR K&N Series, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, NASCAR Toyota (Mexico) Series, the NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony and NASCAR’s season-ending banquets. Further, NBC is granted Spanish-language rights, certain video-on-demand rights and exclusive TV Everywhere rights for its NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR XFINITY Series events. // NASCAR News Wire
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Wins At Martinsville As Calamity Strikes Chase Favorites
On a day that saw two of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup favorites suffer potentially catastrophic problems, Dale Earnhardt Jr. stole a victory from the title contenders on Sunday, passing Tony Stewart for the lead with less than four laps left in the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway and pulling away for his fourth victory of the season. Ten years and one day removed from the tragic Hendrick Motorsports plane crash that claimed the lives of 10 people, including owner Rick Hendrick’s son Ricky, Earnhardt took the checkered flag for the first time at the .526-mile short track, earning for the first time the grandfather clock trophy he has coveted throughout his career.
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Tony Stewart Congratulates Dale Earnhardt Jr.
In fifth position for a restart on Lap 495, Earnhardt made short work of Clint Bowyer (restarting fourth on the outside) and three drivers who had stayed out on old tires, including Stewart, and arrived at the finish line .344 seconds ahead of teammate Jeff Gordon, who took second place and the lead in the Eliminator Round of the Chase.
"Oh, man, we’ve been trying to win here for so many years," said Earnhardt, who collected his 23rd victory in his 538th start. "And this place is so special to me. I’ve wanted to win here so bad. We brought the good cars. I’m out of breath from celebrating more than driving. It’s a real emotional win. This team on pit road was great, and (crew chief) Steve (Letarte) and the guys did a real good job all day. They gave me a great shot at it there with the call at the end to take tires (under the 15th caution on Lap 492 of 500). I can’t believe we won here. This means so much to all of us."
Adding to the intense emotion of the moment were thoughts of the tragedy of a decade earlier. "I lost my daddy (seven-time Cup champion Dale Earnhardt Sr.) a long time ago, and I know how hard that is," said Earnhardt, who was eliminated from the Chase a week earlier at Talladega. "I can’t imagine losing the magnitude of people that Rick lost. My heart goes out to him during this weekend. I love that his cars are good (enough) here to get the victory. So this honors them. I’m just real proud to be able to win at Martinsville in a Hendrick car. They always win here."
Behind Hendrick teammates Earnhardt and Gordon, Chase driver Ryan Newman came home third, posting his fifth straight top 10 in the Chase and climbing to second in the standings, three points behind Gordon. Stewart held fourth place, and Joey Logano ran fifth, his sixth top-five result in seven Chase races this year.
Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski weren’t as fortunate. On Lap 228, Matt Kenseth wheel-hopped into Turn 1, spun and knocked Kevin Harvick’s Chevrolet hard into the outside wall near the apex of Turns 1 and 2. After extensive time in the garage for repairs, Harvick finished 33rd, 43 laps off the pace, and fell to eighth in the Chase standings, 33 points behind Gordon, who led the most laps on Sunday (130). After the next two races, at Texas and Phoenix, the Chase field will be cut from eight drivers to four.
A week after preserving his place in the Chase with a victory at Talladega, Keselowski suffered a mechanical issue that put him right back into a deep hole. Moments after a restart on Lap 434, the rear differential in Keselowski’s No. 2 Team Penske Ford failed. Ultimately, Keselowski finished 31st after repairs and trails Gordon by 31 points. With five Chase drivers within seven points of the lead after Martinsville, Keselowski and Harvick likely will have to win one of the next two races to advance to the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Harvick, for one, wasn’t about to take his misfortune lightly. "Yeah, he (Kenseth) won’t win this championship," Harvick promised. "If we don’t, he won’t." --/-- Kenseth, who finished sixth despite all the extracurricular activity, took full responsibility for the wreck. "I don't blame him for feeling that way, honestly," said Kenseth, who trails Gordon by five points. "It was a mistake -- he was an innocent bystander and was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I totally understand how he feels and I totally understand why he would say that. I totally get it. He knows it was a mistake, too, but that doesn't really help him. I don't really blame him. He got taken out of the race for being in the wrong place at the wrong time." // NASCAR News Wire
Darrell Wallace Jr. Wins At Martinsville In Wendell Scott Tribute Truck
Driving a No. 34 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota painted and numbered as a tribute to NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee Wendell Scott—and with Scott’s family in attendance at Martinsville Speedway—polesitter Darrell Wallace Jr. held off Timothy Peters to win Saturday’s Kroger 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race. Last year at Martinsville, driving the No. 54 KBM Tundra, Wallace became the first African-American driver to win a race in one of NASCAR’s top three touring series since Scott accomplished the feat in what is now the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series on Dec. 1, 1963 at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Fla.
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A Special Day For Darrell Wallace Jr.
Though his number was changed to 34 on Saturday, in honor of Scott’s traditional car number, the result was the same for Wallace, who grabbed the lead from Johnny Sauter in heavy traffic on Lap 188 of 200, moments before the record 11th caution slowed the race. Wallace pulled away after a restart with six laps left and beat Peters to the finish line by .495 seconds. Peters had bumped Sauter out of the way in the closing laps, also opening the door for reigning series champion Matt Crafton, who came home third and extended his series lead to 18 points over fifth-place finisher Ryan Blaney.
"I wasn't worried about anybody, honestly," Wallace said. "They kept telling me where everybody was, and I said I didn't care. It's our weekend and we're going to come out and take this (grandfather) clock (trophy) home with us and we just did that. That was so fun. Martinsville is my favorite place to come to. Without the support of NASCAR and Toyota… the whole Wendell Scott family is here and this is a special moment, just a perfect weekend for us. It's a true honor to have Wendell Scott on our Toyota Tundra and to be able to put it in Victory Lane. I know he (Scott) just said up there, 'Hell yeah.' This is cool."
Wallace said Saturday’s win surpassed his first victory in the series at Martinsville a year ago. "It means a lot -- I know I had a guardian angel looking over me this weekend," said Wallace, who took over third place in the series standings, 22 points behind Crafton. "To be able to put it in Victory Lane, you couldn't ask for a better weekend. You thought last year was special, but this definitely beats it."
Upset with what he deemed roughhouse tactics from Peters, Sauter attempt to confront the runner-up on pit road after the race, but NASCAR officials and crew members kept the drivers apart. "It’s Martinsville," Peters said. "If you’re going to dish it out, you’re going to need to be able to take it. Did I mean to run into him? Yeah. I’m not going to deny that -- maybe not as hard. But it is what it is. I don’t want to waste too much of my breath on that. We’ll just focus on how well we ran today…"
Wallace led 97 of the 200 laps. Second was the pace car, which was out front for a record 71 laps during a race that featured more rookies than veterans and six drivers competing in the series for the first time. Erik Jones ran fourth, followed by Blaney, Tyler Reddick, Sauter, Matt Tifft (a UNC-Charlotte freshman making his first start) Alex Guenette and German Quiroga, whose ill-fated attempt to take the lead in heavy traffic on Lap 188 caused his No. 77 Toyota to spin and brought out the 11th caution, solidifying Wallace in the lead. // NASCAR News Wire