Kurt Busch Edges Denny Hamlin For Nationwide Victory
It was reminicent of the Cup race between Kurt Busch and Ricky Craven at Darlington Raceway in 2003 when the two drivers roughed up each other -- with Ricky Craven coming out on top in that race. By the thinnest of margins, in a breathtaking finish that featured two cars sideways and side-by-side at the finish line, Kurt Busch beat Denny Hamlin to the checkered flag by .062 seconds to win Friday night's Virginia 529 College Savings 250 at Richmond International Raceway. Busch delivered the first-ever NASCAR Nationwide Series victory to the team owned by his brother, Kyle Busch. The win was Busch's fourth in the series and his first on a short track. Hamlin came up two feet short after a phenomenal drive from the rear of the field after a pit road mistake.
Pole-sitter Kevin Harvick ran third, followed by defending series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Sam Hornish Jr. Elliott Sadler finished sixth to cling to the series points lead by two points over Stenhouse. "To get KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports) its first win -- this is unbelievable," Kurt Busch said in Victory Lane. "It's harder than you think, putting a program together. You think you can come in here and muscle your way to the top, but you have to think your way to the top." --/-- Busch parted ways with Penske Racing at the end of last season and took a Sprint Cup job with James Finch's Phoenix Racing this year. He and Kyle are sharing driving duties in the No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota in the start-up Nationwide program. "It was unbelievable racing with him," Busch said. "I was pacing myself and pacing myself, and -- boom! -- he came out of nowhere at the end."
For Kyle Busch, it was difficult to contain the excitement of the first victory with his own equipment. "This is the most emotional I've ever been for a win," said Kyle, himself a prolific past winner in the No. 18 Toyota that Hamlin drove Saturday night. "Man, this is cool. When you're behind the wheel, it's a lot easier to do. When you're standing here watching the guy behind you close in on you...Kurt ran him really tough, and then Denny ran us clean." In a race dominated by Sprint Cup drivers Busch, Hamlin and Harvick -- and featuring the relentlessly promoted Nationwide debut of X-Games gold medalist Travis Pastrana -- the most noteworthy story was the spectacular maiden voyage of 18-year-old Ryan Blaney, who finished seventh in his series debut.
Hurt by three slow pit stops, the last under green, Blaney otherwise would have been a likely contender for the victory in his first Nationwide race. Hamlin likewise was a victim of a pit road mistake, but one of his own making. Hamlin missed his pit stall under caution on Lap 117, restarted 24th on Lap 125 and drove up to the third position before pitting under the green flag on Lap 208. Second soon after the cycle of pit stops, Hamlin harried Busch until the end of the race but ran out of time. Hamlin said he could have moved Busch on the final lap but preferred to have the race decided fairly. "I could have moved him up and gotten him out of the groove, and it would have been over with," Hamlin said. "But Kyle's a teammate (at Joe Gibbs Racing) and (KBM general manager) Rick Ren and those guys have built a great program, so I wanted it to be fair. He won fair and square, and (I was) just one lap too late."
Notes: Despite a pit road speeding penalty, Pastrana ran 22nd in his ballyhooed Nationwide debut. Danica Patrick came home 21st. (NASCAR Wire Service)
Mark Martin Edges Carl Edwards By .006 Seconds For Richmond Pole
The late draw in Friday afternoon's NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying session made little difference at all -- except to Mark Martin. The last driver on the track, Martin sped around .75-mile Richmond International Raceway in 21.040 seconds (128.327 mph) to edge Carl Edwards (128.290 mph) by .006 seconds for the top starting spot in Saturday night's Capital City 400. The Coors Light Pole Award was the 53-year-old Martin's second of the year, his fifth at Richmond and the 53rd of his career, eighth most all-time. Kevin Harvick (128.041 mph) qualified third, followed by AJ Allmendinger (127.962 mph) and Kyle Busch (127.956 mph), who has won the last three spring Cup events at Richmond. Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start Saturday's race from positions six through 10, respectively. Series points leader Greg Biffle, who went out next to last, was 28th fastest in the time trials at 126.428 mph.
Conventional wisdom holds that drivers late in the draw during an afternoon session will benefit from a cooler track, but Martin was the only driver late in the session to match, in relative terms, his speed from Friday's first practice session. "I did not ask (crew chief) Rodney (Childers) what he put under the car," said Martin, who in 1981 won his second career pole at Richmond -- in a .542-mile configuration of the track. "We made some improvements to the car in happy Hour (final practice) in race setup right at the end. "If it would have been me, I probably would have incorporated those changes into the qualifying setup, and I didn't want to ask Rodney if he did or not, or what he did to the car. All I want to do is roll out on the racetrack with no preconceived notion and drive it as fast as it'd go and rely on him and his judgment."
Martin was second fastest after the first of his two laps and edged Edwards on his second time around. "I was really hoping that he (Childers) would call me (on the radio) on the first lap and tell me to shut it down -- I told him to tell me to shut it down if we happened to get the pole on the first lap. When he didn't, I was afraid, 'Oh, no, we're 15th fastest. That wasn't near fast enough, and I've really got to get up on the wheel.' I was very close to skinning the car up, especially off of (Turn) 4 on the second lap, and that was my concern. That was my concern in practice as well. Both the qualifying runs I made in practice, I almost skinned it up, too. So I was driving as hard as I can go -- at the very limit of my talent, for sure -- and if I keep pushing the limits, I'm going to run out of talent here, one of these days." -- Note: Scott Riggs and J.J. Yeley failed to qualify for the 43-car field. (NASCAR Wire Service)
NASCAR Hotpass Lineup At Richmond International Raceway
NASCAR Hotpass on DirecTV is free to all DirecTV customers. Four dedicated driver channels offering viewers multiple camera angles, real-time statistics and audio of the network broadcast augmented by live communication between the drivers and their pit crews are available for all 36 point-paying races during the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. The NASCAR Hotpass lineup for the Capital City 400 at Richmond International Raceway is as follows:
DIRECTV Channel 795: Denny Hamlin and the No. 11 FedEx Fright Toyota team of Joe Gibbs Racing
DIRECTV Channel 796: Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet team of Hendrick Motorsports
DIRECTV Channel 797: Martin Truex Jr., and the No. 56 NAPA Brakes Toyota team of Michael Waltrip Racing
DIRECTV Channel 798: Dale Earnhardt Jr., and the No. 88 National Guard / Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet team of Hendrick Motorsports
Wood Brother's Winning Daytona Car To Henry Ford Museum
Wood Brothers Racing and Trevor Bayne brought Roush Yates' FR9 engine to Victory Lane in one of the sport's most memorable Daytona 500 races just over one year ago. Now Bayne, along with Eddie, Len, Jordan, Jon, and Keven Wood have officially turned over the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. The Wood Brothers Racing car was inducted on March 23, 2012 into the "Driving America" exhibit next to the Indy 500-winning Lotus that cruised to victory in 1965 behind the quick pit stops designed by Wood Brothers Racing, and Sweepstakes, the car that Henry Ford himself drove to victory against Alexander Winton on Oct. 19, 1901. "I'm really excited. This is a huge honor for us," said an elated Bayne. "The drink bottle, everything is exactly where it was in the cockpit and that is special to me."
The No. 21 Ford Fusion entered the Henry Ford Museum after sitting at the Daytona 500 Speedway exhibit for a year. The red and white race car was unwashed, with confetti still glued to it from the victory bath of now dried Gatorade and Coca-Cola. "The car is really dirty," said Eddie Wood. "In fact, it's nasty. The odd thing about it is there's no champagne on it like you usually have in Victory Lane because Trevor was 20 at the time, so they didn't allow it there, which is really cool. It's a great honor to have our car in here."
Bayne's monumental victory not only revived Wood Brothers Racing by giving them their first Sprint Cup Series win in over ten years, but it also provided Ford Racing with their 600th Sprint Cup victory. "People often ask me what the most memorable race I have attended was," Edsel Ford said. "Certainly being with my father at LeMans in 1966, when Ford beat Ferrari, is clearly one of the highlights. But even though I've been at many memorable wins for Ford, at LeMans or many Formula One races or Trans Am or NHRA, I think being at the Daytona 500 on Feb. 20, 2011 ranks well above them all." Another man that can attest to the exceptional pride that comes from winning the Daytona 500 is Doug Yates, CEO of Roush Yates Engines and engine builder for Wood Brothers Racing. "The Daytona 500 has always been a special race for me and my family," said Yates. "Seeing Glen, Leonard, Eddie and Len Wood alongside Trevor Bayne in Victory Lane last year was definitely a highlight for me. It's a great honor to have the No. 21 with our engine sitting in the prestigious Henry Ford Museum."
Tony Stewart Wins Short Track Showdown
Tony Stewart stalked Virginia short-track racer Greg Edwards for several laps before passing him, and the three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champ never gave up the lead again to win the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown at Richmond International Raceway. Along the way, he gave Edwards the thrill of a lifetime. "My gosh," Edwards, who races at Langley Speedway in Hampton, said, beaming, after finishing second. "To get beat by Tony Stewart. How bad is that?" Stewart took off on a restart with 11 laps to go in the 75-lap event while Jeff Burton, running second, failed to keep pace and wound up getting shuffled back. "I was worried about Burton," Stewart said. "He was really strong and he's done this a long time. I was worried that he'd saved a little but more than we had."
Joey Logano took advantage, moving from fifth to second, but his stay up front was short-lived as Edwards, Brandon Butler and Burton all passed him before the finish. "I was grinning from ear to ear every lap," Edwards said. "I was having a blast." Ben Rhodes, 15, of Louisville, Ky., finished sixth. Stewart said it was nice to be a be to contribute to a memorable experience for the local track drivers, but said the Spring Cup regulars learned as much as they taught. "They didn't need much help," he said. "Those guys are pretty good on their own." As a car owner in NASCAR's top series, Stewart said there also was value in seeing some of the young drivers up close because some, he said, will rise through the ranks. "Trust me, there's a lot of these guys today and we're going to see these guys down the road in Nationwide or trucks or the Cup series, and the fun part is we got to see them here first," he said. "It's fun to race with some of these guys and know their names now." (sportingnews.com)
Six Nationwide Cars Fail Inspection
All three Richard Childress Racing teams and all three Turner Motorsports teams replaced the upper front bumper covers on their Nationwide Series cars Thursday after NASCAR confiscated modified bumper covers during inspection. Nationwide teams went through inspection Thursday at Richmond International Raceway to prepare for practice Friday morning and the race Friday night. Any penalties will be announced next week. No crew members were ejected from the track. Included in the group were the cars of series points leader Elliott Sadler, who drives for RCR and has a four-point lead on Roush Fenway Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Along with Sadler, other drivers who had their front bumper covers confiscated were RCR’s Austin Dillon and Kevin Harvick and Turner’s James Buescher, Justin Allgaier and Kasey Kahne. Sadler has won two races this year while Buescher and Kahne have wins for Turner Motorsports. (sportingnews.com)
Pastrana Making Nationwide Debut At Richmond
In the nine months since his originally scheduled Nationwide Series debut last July, Travis Pastrana has shattered his right ankle, had several pins and screws inserted and some removed, watched as much NASCAR racing as he could and tried to convince his sponsors and fans that he would eventually race in NASCAR's second-highest series. On Friday night, the former action sports star will finally reach that goal. Pastrana broke his ankle two days before his scheduled debut last July when he landed awkwardly on his motorcycle in X Games competition. He will make his long-awaited debut behind the wheel of the RAB Racing No. 99 car in the Virginia 529 College Savings 250 on Friday at Richmond International Raceway. “All I want to do is drive that car and be in the car,” Pastrana said. “We've done a lot of press, and a lot of media, and quite frankly, I'm tired of talking about it (and) I know the media's tired of talking about it. And all the drivers are like, ‘Geez, are you getting out here or not?’ That ankle set me back horribly.”
With six NASCAR regional series races under his belt, Pastrana has had a tough start to his stock-car career. Throughout his career on two wheels and even in Rally car racing, the harder he pushed, the more successful he was. The 28-year-old has won 11 X Games gold medals and four consecutive Rally America championships.
But in NASCAR, he still needs to learn that it’s drivers that are consistently fast that wind up winning races and running up front. “I’ve been getting crushed on restarts and I've been getting crushed in qualifying, which is always tough to come from the back of the pack, and it's tough to make up time after six, seven laps have gone and people find their rhythm,” Pastrana said. “So it's just a matter of getting out there, not getting in trouble, but still trying to be aggressive and not just getting taken advantage of in the first couple of laps.” Pastrana will have two full days of racing at Richmond. He will compete in the East race Thursday night to get ready for the Nationwide race Friday. ...READ MORE AT... (sportingnews.com)
Denny Hamlin Holds Martin Truex Jr. Off To Win At Kansas
It was Denny Hamlin's day in the sun. Taking advantage of changing conditions Sunday at Kansas Speedway, Denny Hamlin held off Martin Truex Jr. the final 30 laps to win the STP 400, his second victory of the season, his first at the 1.5-mile track and the 19th of his career. The victory was the 199th for cars bearing the No. 11, breaking a tie for the all-time lead with the No. 43, made famous by Richard Petty, who drove to 192 of his record 200 wins with that car number. Jimmie Johnson finished third, followed by Roush Fenway Racing teammates Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle. Truex moved into second place in the Sprint Cup Series standings behind Biffle, who leads by 15 points. After a late round of green-flag pit stops put all the contending cars on the same sequence, the sun broke through the clouds for the first time all afternoon and changed the complexion of the race.
To that point, Truex had been dominant, having led 173 laps, but the changing conditions made Truex's Toyota "wrecking loose" in the words of the driver. Hamlin passed Truex for the lead through Turn 4 on Lap 237 and began to pull away, with Johnson pursuing from the third position. To Hamlin, the sunlight was a welcome game-changer. "Whether it was coincidence or not, our car definitely seemed like, [relative] to the field, was better once the sun came out," Hamlin said. "I felt like our car lost a lot of grip when the sun came out, but I guess a lot of guys did when that happened. I felt like all day I was behind the No. 56 [Truex], and his car looked so superior to the field. We just needed some kind of change -- weather or adjustments or something to get where he was at -- and we kind of got both of them. In overcast conditions, the cars run a little bit tighter, the grip level's higher in the race car, and it's more of a track-position type race. When the sun's out, the drivers, in my opinion, are more prominent. "You move around, find the grip, do things in the car to make up for what you don't have. The slicker the conditions are, the better it tends to [be] for our race team. Luckily, we had that run in sunshine."
As clouds covered the sun once again, however, Truex began to close on Hamlin and widen his advantage on Johnson. With 10 laps left, Truex trailed Hamlin by .772 seconds. Five laps later, Truex had closed to .489 seconds behind. Truex tried to dive beneath Hamlin in Turn 3 twice in the final three laps but couldn't stick the pass. "Desperation," Truex said wryly. "I was a little bit faster than Denny at the end, but he was running against the wall right where I needed to be, and I was just trying to gain a little bit of ground. It was desperation -- last-ditch effort -- just trying something. There was no chance to make it work."
Though Truex's handling ills and Hamlin's surge to the front coincided with the appearance of the sun, Truex blamed his problem on a bad set of tires for the final run. "I'm just not really sure what to think of that last set of tires," Truex said. "The car had been really good all day, we put the last set on, and I was just wrecking loose for the first 20 laps of that last run. "Denny was able to get by me, and once he did, the race was over. The car got better longer in the run, and I was able to get back to him, but I'd get three or four car-lengths from him and pick up the aero push ... I guess if we can be this disappointed with second, it kind of shows how far we've come as a race team." (NASCAR Wire Service)
Pattie Petty Ousted From Victory Junction Gang Camp
Plans for a Victory Junction Gang Camp near Kansas City continue, but without the help of Pattie Petty, one of the founders of the original Victory Junction camp in North Carolina. According to the Kansas City Star, Petty, the wife of former NASCAR star Kyle Petty, has been told by the Victory Junction board of directors that she will no longer be part of the day-to-day operations of the camp her family founded. Kyle and Pattie Petty started the Victory Junction Gang Camp for chronically ill children in Randleman, N.C. in 2004 in memory of their son Adam, who was killed in a racecar crash in 2000. The camp serves nearly 4,000 chronically ill children at no cost to them or their families. Demand was so great, the Pettys announced plans in 2007 to build a $35 million Victory Junction Midwest in the Kansas City area.
Pattie Petty, 60, moved to the Kansas City area part time and has been involved in trying to raise funds and acquire land for the camp. The board recently informed her, however, of its decision to dismiss her from the camp. According to the Star, she was offered emeritus status, but she has balked at serving only in a ceremonial role. “They don’t want anything to do with me,” Pattie Petty told the Star. “They gave me not one reason. They said they wanted to make a change. … I’m not sure what I did wrong, but the word came back to me I was making irrational decisions. ...READ MORE AT...(sportingnews.com)
James Buescher Wins First Truck Series Race
Simply put, it was James Buescher's day. Buescher pulled away in the closing laps for a convincing 5.320-second victory over Timothy Peters, who passed Brad Keselowski for the runner-up spot with three laps left in Saturday's SFP 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Kansas Speedway. Buescher earned his first win in the series, to go with his maiden Nationwide Series victory at Daytona in February. It was the second straight victory for Turner Motorsports, which sent Kasey Kahne to Victory Lane last Saturday at Rockingham, with Buescher running second. "Turner Motorsports trucks are pretty awesome," Buescher said. "Two in a row is saying something. Having our first win (for the team) last week with Kasey, and running second to him, we wanted to come here and win one for ourselves."
Keselowski ran third, followed by Nelson Piquet Jr. and Todd Bodine. "We needed a bit more speed to run with James, who was just lightning quick," said Keselowski, who was attempting to become the 24th driver to win a race in each of NASCAR's top three touring series. "We didn't have anything for that, so hats off to his team and James himself. But we learned a lot, and hopefully we can take something away from it to help out Parker Kligerman (who drives Keselowski's full-time No. 29 entry) and his efforts running for the championship, so for that I'm thankful."
With the victory, Buescher narrowed Peters' lead in the series standings to four points. Ron Hornaday Jr., Justin Lofton, Kligerman, rookie Ty Dillon and Miguel Paludo completed the top 10. "He's been a factor all this year this year and when we raced with him last year," Peters said of the race winner. "He's going be the one to contend for a championship, I feel like, and the RCR bunch are going to be ones to contend for the championship, and I think we are, too." -- Dillon is fourth in the standings, 14 points behind Peters and three behind third-place Lofton.
Driving his own truck for the second time this season, Keselowski surged past Buescher and into the lead shortly after a restart on Lap 105 of 167. Buescher pursued patiently until Lap 122, when he cleared Keselowski through Turn 4 to regain the top spot. The longer the run, the more Buescher's No. 31 Chevrolet flaunted its superiority. By Lap 140, with green-flag pit stops imminent, Buescher had opened an advantage of 5.4 seconds, with Peters closing in on Keselowski for the second position.
As the green-flag cycle began, Peters grabbed the No. 2 spot from Keselowski before heading to the pits on Lap 146. Buescher followed on Lap 150 and matched Peters with a four-tire stop. That left Keselowski, who took right-side tires only, in the lead, but Buescher quickly tracked down the No. 19 RAM and made the pass for the top spot on Lap 157. The final 10 laps were a smooth cruise for the first-time Truck series winner. (NASCAR Wire Service)
AJ Allmendinger Wins Kansas Speedway Pole
Despite a late draw on a slick track that warmed throughout Saturday's qualifying session, AJ Allmendinger claimed the pole for Sunday's STP 400 at Kansas Speedway, posting a lap at 175.993 mph (30.683 seconds). In winning the second Coors Light pole award of his career, his first since 2010 at Phoenix and his first since joining Penske Racing this season, Allmendinger edged Kevin Harvick (175.747 mph) by .043 seconds at the 1.5-mile intermediate speedway, which will begin a facelift -- repaving and reconfiguration -- as soon as Sunday's race is over. Joey Logano, the first driver to make a qualifying run, was third fastest at 175.724 mph but must start from the rear on Sunday because of an engine change during Friday's practice session. Denny Hamlin, Logano's teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing, claimed the fourth starting spot at 175.667 mph, with Mark Martin (175.484 mph) posting the fifth-fastest lap.
In a disappointing session for the Fords, Sprint Cup points leader Greg Biffle qualified 17th at 174.706 mph, the fastest of all the Ford drivers. After finishing second at Martinsville to Ryan Newman in the sixth Cup race of the season, Allmendinger was gratified to continue the momentum for his No. 22 Penske Racing team. "More than anything, I put so much pressure on my shoulders to go out there and perform," Allmendinger said. "They [his Penske team] are used to winning, running up front, getting poles. It's good just to build momentum. "So, hopefully, we have a solid 400 miles. It's good, but we know the bigger picture's on Sunday, and I'm happy to be part of the team."
Harvick knew he had a good lap going but said he might have gotten overly excited in the second set of corners. "That might have cost us the pole, but overall it's been a great year for us qualifying-wise so far," Harvick said. "The cars have been fast every week, and as soon as we put together a whole weekend without me making a mistake or things not going exactly right, I think everything's going to come together nicely. So I'm pretty happy with the way everything's gone so far this year." Tim Andrews, Jeff Green and Tony Raines failed to qualify for the 43-car field. (NASCAR Wire Service)