Daytona 500

NASCAR: Harvick takes a bumpy road to 100 victories

This gallery contains 1 photo.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Harvick once lay in wait for Greg Biffle on the pit road wall at Bristol Motor Speedway. Harvick was angry — he always seemed to be angry in the early days of his NASCAR career — and he was going to make sure Biffle knew it the moment the race was over.

How did Harvick send his message?

He literally hurdled over Biffle’s car into a scrum and lunged at Biffle’s throat.

The Biffle incident back in 2002 would most certainly be on Harvick’s highlight reel. In his first two years in Cup, Harvick became the first driver to be “parked” by NASCAR for aggressive driving and he once tried to fight Ricky Rudd, usually considered a losing proposition. Harvick’s nickname has always been “Happy” and he was anything but in those early days.

He said after the 2002 parking — for intentionally wrecking Coy Gibbs in a Truck Series race at Martinsville and generally being a thorn in NASCAR’s side — that it was the wakeup call the 25-year-old needed.

“I haven’t been racing since I was 5 years old and made it this far in my career to throw it all away now,” Harvick said then. “Having to miss the race in Martinsville definitely got my attention.”

OK, so it hasn’t been exactly smooth sailing since that wakeup call.

But here Harvick is now, 100 NASCAR national wins later, and one of the most consistent drivers of his era.

Harvick doesn’t have the statistics to show just how exceptional a race car driver he is in part because he came along at the same time as another Californian. Jimmie Johnson, with a laid-back Southern California persona, debuted a year after Harvick and has collected seven championships along the way.

Harvick has so far managed just one championship. But he’s a Daytona 500 winner, a two-time Coca-Cola 600 winner, a Southern 500 winner and a Brickyard 400 winner.

That’s a Hall of Fame career right there, and one many might not have seen coming when he was thrust into a miserable situation at what should have been the best time of his life. Harvick was on schedule to drive a Cup car for Richard Childress in 2002, but when Dale Earnhardt was killed on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500, that plan was scrapped.

Harvick got Earnhardt’s ride the next week, went forward with his scheduled Las Vegas wedding the week after that, and won his first Cup race the week after that. It was a whirlwind three weeks for the 24-year-old from Bakersfield, California, and when he had to time to take a breath, there was a lot going on.

Maybe that’s why he snapped so easily back then. And although some of that went away, he never really changed who he was. Harvick continued to stir the pot in the garage, spoke his mind even when he didn’t have anything nice to say, and never lacked for confidence. It was just over three years ago when Harvick, locked into the championship battle, shoved Brad Keselowski from behind to trigger a melee between Keselowski and Jeff Gordon.

Harvick just stood back and watched the chaos between two drivers he was racing for the title.

The next race was at Phoenix, where Harvick had to win, at a track here he always wins, and Harvick didn’t want to answer any questions. He didn’t want to talk about what role he might have had in the Keselowski scuffle, or how his championship was one race away from slipping through his fingers.

But as he thought more about it, Harvick, by then a father to a young son, saw the bigger picture. To be a role model to Keelan, he had to be a professional and do the right thing. So he met his media obligations in Phoenix, won the race, and won the championship a week later.

Harvick and his wife welcomed a daughter this offseason and he’s now a 42-year-old father of two. His future is in broadcasting and Fox already uses him quite a bit in its booth. But he’s still got racing left; he’s certainly shown that out of the gate this season with two dominant wins.

An eight-time Phoenix winner, including a streak of six wins in eight races, Harvick hasn’t been to victory lane at the track in three whole races.

He might snap that streak Sunday, and if he doesn’t, he might have something sarcastic to say about a competitor, his own crew, maybe even NASCAR. That’s just who Harvick is, 17 years after his whirlwind and emotional and untenable promotion to the big leagues. He made it work, doing it his way, and that’s likely how he’ll close his career.


More AP Auto Racing:

NASCAR: Defending champ Martin Truex Jr. looks to start another title run in Las Vegas

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports)    —-    LAS VEGAS — Drivers intent on denying Martin Truex Jr.’s defense of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship should be on alert this week.

Las Vegas Motor Speedway, home of Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 (3:30 p.m. ET, Fox), the third race of the season, was the launching pad for Truex’s remarkable run to last year’s title, his first.

Truex led 150 of 267 laps at LVMS last spring on the way to his first victory of the season. Seven more wins followed, six of them at 1.5-mile tracks, Truex’s road of choice to the championship.

LVMS also is one of two tracks — Kentucky Speedway is the other — where Truex, a master at claiming stage wins last year, swept all three stages. He was the only driver to win all three stages at any track last season.

“The Las Vegas track has its unique features,” Truex said. “What stands out to me is the way the bumps are and the frequency of the bumps. A windy Las Motor speedway can also cause havoc with the balance of the car. But we had some good runs there in recent years.”

Drivers have a bit more incentive to do well at LVMS this weekend. For the first time since the track hosted its Cup series opener in 1998, Vegas has two Cup races on its schedule this season. The series will return to the track for a Sept. 16 race, the opener of the playoffs, so lessons learned Sunday can be forwarded to the second race.

Among the drivers searching for a strong Sunday at Vegas will be seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, whose slump has stretched into the new season. He finished 38th at Daytona and 27th last week at Atlanta, extending his winless streak to 25 races.

After two races, Johnson is a very uncharacteristic 35th in the Cup standings.

“We have a lot of smart people on our team, so I’m not hitting the panic button,” Johnson said

Early this week, Johnson posted a booster shot of sorts on Twitter: “Fear has two meanings — ‘Forget Everything And Run’ or ‘Face Everything And Rise.’ I’m ready to rise.”

Fox television analyst Darrell Waltrip said Johnson should be concerned.

“Even though the season is just starting, if I was Jimmie Johnson, I’d be worried,” Waltrip said. “They didn’t just fall into a slump; they’ve been there for a while and don’t seem to be working their way out of it. Once you’re in that situation, your confidence is shaken, despite how many races or championships you have. When you hit a plateau, wins aren’t as easy to come by.”

Johnson owns a record four victories at LVMS.

Qualifying for Sunday’s race is scheduled at 7:15 p.m. ET on Friday.

NASCAR fines Kevin Harvick’s crew chief $10,000 for violation in Atlanta race

This gallery contains 1 photo.

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports)    —   NASCAR penalized several teams, including the Cup Series race-winning team of Kevin Harvick, Wednesday for violations during last weekend’s events at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Rodney Childers, Harvick’s crew chief, was fined $10,000 for having one lug nut loose on the Stewart-Haas Racing Ford.

Three members of the team that fielded Kyle Busch’s truck in Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race at AMS were suspended for three races because a wheel came off Busch’s truck after a pit stop. Suspended were jackman Ernie Pierce, tire changer Coleman Dollarhide and crew chief Marcus Richmond.

Although Dollarhide and Pierce work for Stewart-Haas Racing in the Cup Series and were working on the side for Busch’s Truck team, the suspensions are in effect only for the Truck Series.

Xfinity Series crew chiefs Tim Brown (driver David Starr) and Mike Shiplett (John Hunter Nemechek) were fined $5,000 each for loose lug nuts on their cars.


HAMPTON, Ga. (AP) — NASCAR legend Richard Petty says after “accumulating stuff” for 80 years, it’s time to sell some of his most famous cars, trophies and other items.

Petty’s iconic day-glow red and Petty blue 1974 Dodge Charger is going on sale at an auction on May 12 at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, along with other cars, his 1981 Daytona 500 trophy and other items. Petty drove the ’74 Charger to 31 wins, including his fifth Daytona 500 championship.

“We’re putting some pretty good stuff out there, some winning Daytona cars, some rings, some watches, some knives,” Petty, 80, told The Associated Press.

“You name it, we’ve got a little bit of everything. Some of the uniforms, some stuff that really meant something in my career.”

Petty said he has more cars and memorabilia than he can showcase in his museum in Level Cross, North Carolina.

“We feel like we’ve got enough stuff in the museum and none of my kids really want it,” he said.

“They’ve got enough of their own junk. So we got together and said hey, let’s throw some stuff out there and see if there are other people interested in some of the stuff we’ve got.”

Petty won a record 200 races, including seven at the Daytona 500, and seven Cup championships.

Among other cars to be sold at the auction are a 1978 Chevrolet Monte Carlo he drove in 1979 when he won his seventh series championship and a 1992 Pontiac Grand Prix he drove during his farewell tour.

Also up for auction will be a trophy for Petty’s first Southern 500 win in 1967, part of his streak of 10 consecutive wins that year. The collection also includes a leather racing jacket signed by Petty, race programs, license plates, posters, trading cards, plaques and clothing.

Petty remains involved in NASCAR as the owner of Richard Petty Motorsports. Rookie Darrell “Bubba” Wallace now drives the 43 car Petty made famous and finished second at the Daytona 500 to open the season.

The auction will be conducted live and online by Julien’s Auctions, which estimates the value of the ’74 Charger at $400,000 to $600,000 and the 1967 trophy at $100,000 to $200,000.


For more AP racing coverage:

NASCAR: NASCAR veterans aren’t pulling over for the rookies

This gallery contains 1 photo.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Harvick put the brakes on the “New NASCAR!” movement with a dominating victory on a weathered old racetrack.

Away from Daytona, the veterans showed the young new drivers how to race on the dogged surface at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Harvick put on a clinic, and the top eight finishers were the familiar faces that seem to compete for wins every week.

All the new kids who sparkled in the Daytona 500 had their hands full at Atlanta, a track that requires an entirely different skill-set. In the season-opening showcase, the idea is to go as fast as you can while avoiding the mishaps of others.

But the style of racing at Daytona, as well as Talladega, comes just four times a year. The rest of the NASCAR schedule is where the true talent rises. So at Atlanta, where experience matters, the finishing order showed five former series champions — four Daytona 500 winners — cross the finish line in order.

“This is a racetrack that takes a lot of experience, and there’s a lot of things that you have to know about your car and know about the racetrack to get the car around,” Harvick said. “This is where experience pays off.”

That doesn’t fit the fresh narrative that came out of Daytona, where the new crop of NASCAR drivers ruled. Alex Bowman won the pole, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney won qualifying races, Blaney led the most laps in the Daytona 500, Austin Dillon won the race and Bubba Wallace finished second in his debut. At 27, Dillon is the oldest driver in that bunch.

Harvick, meanwhile, is 42.

The shift in focus to the new generation is not lost on anyone who follows NASCAR, particularly the veteran drivers. Some have nitpicked about the marketing push behind this “New NASCAR!” and they had to have felt the change in dynamic at Daytona.

Denny Hamlin, a former Daytona 500 winner who finished third in the 500 and fourth at Atlanta, shared his thoughts on Twitter on Monday night by posting a video of pro bowler Pete Weber screaming “Who do you think you are? I am!” after winning his fifth U.S. Open title in 2012. Hamlin added his own message: “All the old drivers after Sunday.”

A reply chided Hamlin that Elliott is the future, and “In a couple years you will be watching him win from your recliner,” the fan wrote. Hamlin didn’t back down. “Agree. But I won’t be on that recliner for some time,” he posted.

This isn’t about jealousy, rather reality. The older drivers know their laps are limited, but they aren’t going to simply go away. Experience matters and it’s going to take seat time for the newcomers to figure out how to contend on a weekly basis.

Elliott, for example, is winless in the Cup Series but has seven runner-up finishes. He’s still working on closing races. Kyle Larson was the same, and when he finally figured it out, he knocked out four wins last season and was a legitimate title contender.

Harvick noted there’s going to be a balance all season between the radically different ends of the spectrum. The younger drivers may have better finishes this weekend at Las Vegas because the track is “a little calmer with things that you don’t have to have in your memory bank.”

Clint Bowyer, who finished third behind teammate Harvick at Atlanta, believes there will be a better mix at Las Vegas because “it’s qualifying laps every single lap, and those kids will show back up.”

And when they do, there will be room for both new and old. Harvick, who has started the transition from race car driver to analyst with a radio show on Sirius and a recurring spot in Fox’s broadcasting lineup, understands its going to take everyone for NASCAR to go through these current growing pains.

“We’re in a great spot in our sport because we have these young guys that are fired up and can drive the car fast and have great stories and have ties to great family heritage,” he said.

“The diversity from young to old is something that we haven’t had in a long time, and we’re going to corral everybody to make sure that they realize that we all need each other in order to make this sport what we all want it to be.”


More AP Auto Racing:


Five takeaways: Older drivers rule in Atlanta as NASCAR heads West

(PhatzRadio Sports /USA Today Sports)    —   HAMPTON, Ga. — Five takeaways from Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway as teams prepare for this weekend’s visit to Las Vegas Motor Speedway and the first of three races in the West:

OLD GUYS RULE: The off-season and the first weeks of the new season were blanketed with talk about NASCAR’s young drivers and the force they might become this year.

Kevin Harvick, at 42 the second-oldest driver in the field, turned that talk on its head Sunday by dominating the race like a grandfather beating his grandchild at checkers. He led 181 of 325 laps and was well  ahead at the finish.

The best finish by a young gun was ninth by Kyle Larson. As for Daytona’s two stars, Austin Dillon finished 14th and Bubba Wallace was 32nd, his day dampened by an accident.

Harvick passed on the opportunity to chide the young drivers Sunday.

“The diversity from young to old is something that we haven’t had in a long time, and we’re going to corral everybody to make sure that they realize that we all need each other in order to make this sport what we all want it to be,” Harvick said.

FORDS STRONG: Ford drivers took the three top positions in Sunday’s race, and the numbers were even worse than that for the competition.

Fords led 272 of the race’s 375 laps, an indication that its teams are in good shape on “downforce” tracks after the first race of the season in that category.

That dominance drew an interesting remark post-race from Toyota driver Denny Hamlin, who said, with a smile, “It’s clear that the Fords have an unfair advantage.”

Hamlin was sitting beside Ford driver Brad Keselowski, the second-place finisher who claimed last year that Toyotas had an unfair advantage as Camry drivers were stacking up wins.

FITS IN THE PITS: There were at least three instances on pit road Sunday of pit-gun failures, a fact that is likely to produce some angst leading into the next few races.

NASCAR made a dramatic change in the offseason, replacing the customized (and expensive) pit guns teams have used for many years with common guns supplied by NASCAR. The pit guns remove lugnuts from tires in mere seconds when they work properly.

Sunday’s issues weren’t big enough to cause major alarm, but if a gun fails in a critical, late-race situation and costs a team a win, there is likely to be some strong protests.

HOLD THE ASPHALT: The Atlanta track’s 21-year-old racing surface held up well through three races and some rain over the weekend, and drivers remain steadfast in their conviction that it should not be repaved.

“Until it breaks, let it go,” Denny Hamlin said.

The track has funding in hand to do the repave, a project officials had planned for last April, but drivers’ complaints led them to leave the surface as is.

WESTWARD HO: The Cup series heads west this week for three consecutive races —at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, ISM Raceway (outside Phoenix) and Auto Club Speedway (in Fontana, Calif.).

Consensus in the garage is that the Las Vegas and Auto Club races will go a long way toward identifying the strongest cars. Teams that were strong at Atlanta Sunday won’t necessarily be the big dogs out West because the track surfaces are so different.

“Even though Atlanta is a mile‑and‑a‑half and is somewhat similar in nature to the size of Las Vegas, Las Vegas is a completely different track, and you really have four or five distinctly different tracks to start the season,” said Keselowski. “You take it week by week, and Phoenix obviously is much different than anywhere else we run. It’s kind of its own. It’s really hard to predict.”


TRACK SURFACE ISSUES IN ATLANTA: (Comments made last week before the race)

NASCAR fans have favorite tracks. Darlington Raceway, Daytona International Speedway and Martinsville Speedway often are listed near the top in fan surveys.

Drivers have favorites, too. And one of them — Atlanta Motor Speedway — is this week’s stop on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

Driver track preferences have nothing to do with nearby restaurants or town tourist spots or the size of grandstands.

Oddly enough, drivers fall in love with asphalt. And not young asphalt. Senior-citizen asphalt.

Atlanta Motor Speedway, scheduled to host the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at 1 p.m. ET  Sunday, has very old asphalt. The 1.54-mile track was last repaved in 1997.

Track officials planned to repave the surface after the March 2017 NASCAR race weekend, but pleas from drivers to postpone the work convinced AMS and its parent company, Speedway Motorsports Inc., to delay.

The track’s worn surface is very abrasive, and it eats tires. Average speed per lap falls off dramatically the longer a car is on the track.

But drivers say the worn surface makes racing much more fun and passing much more likely. Unlike a new surface, which increases speed but tends to produce one-groove racing, an older track promotes more side-by-side racing.

Tracks eventually have to be repaved, of course, because surfaces break up and potholes appear. Patching will work for a while but not indefinitely.

Brad Keselowski, who led the final seven laps of the 2017 race en route to his first victory at the track, said a repave will change AMS significantly because the surface has bumps and imperfections that make racing fun but that can’t be duplicated.

“You have some dynamic features to the track with the bumps, the worn-out pavement,” he said. “This track has just so many unique features that would be erased if you just repaved it from the way that the top lane seams in to the backstretch.”

Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillon said the sort of racing AMS hosts has a throwback nature. Tire management is big, he said.

“You go back to your roots when you get these old-pavement tracks where taking care of the tires is really key and long runs are very key,” Dillon said. “So, where every other weekend during the year we are trying to take off and go fast, at this one if you take off it really hurts you in the end on the long run [because of tire falloff].”

The race, the first non-restrictor plate event of the 36-race season, will have a 36-car starting field, the smallest start grid for a Cup race since 1996. All teams participating have NASCAR charters, which guarantee a starting spot in all 36 Cup point races. The Atlanta field had room for four more teams, but no non-charter teams entered.

Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman will start the 325-lap race from the front row.

Rain is in the forecast for the Atlanta area Sunday. If the event is postponed, it will be rescheduled Monday.

NASCAR: Harvick adds Cup win to dominant weekend at Atlanta

This gallery contains 1 photo.

HAMPTON, Ga. (AP) — Kevin Harvick had to wait 17 years for a second Atlanta salute to Dale Earnhardt.

The memory brought tears to his eyes.

In a reprise of the celebration of his first win in Atlanta in 2001, Harvick raised his three-finger salute to Earnhardt following his dominant victory Sunday in the rain-delayed NASCAR Monster Energy Cup race.

Harvick completed his weekend mastery of Atlanta Motor Speedway by holding off Brad Keselowski following a late restart.

Then he held the three fingers out the window, just as he did in 2001 when he gave the Richard Childress team an Atlanta win following the death of Dale Earnhardt in Daytona a few weeks earlier. The young Harvick took over Earnhardt’s car, with a new No. 29.

Ending five years of frustration in Cup races in Atlanta was satisfying, but Harvick said “the coolest part was being able to try to replicate that first win celebration.”

Harvick led 915 laps in Cup races in Atlanta over the last five years — including 181 on Sunday — but endured the long wait for his second win at the track. It brought back memories.

“That was the first win in my career and to be able to do that and pay tribute to Dale was pretty cool,” Harvick said. “I’ve been waiting a long time to do that.”

He said he was emotional on Sunday because he was moved to see his team so happy.

“For me there was just a lot of happiness,” Harvick said, adding “There’s nothing better than seeing all those guys smile.”

The win came one week after Austin Dillon, who now has the No. 3 that Earnhardt made famous, won the Daytona 500 .

“You see that 3 back in victory lane and us back in victory lane tonight, it’s almost, it’s how it’s meant to be,” Harvick said, smiling.

The win completed an impressive weekend for Harvick following a similarly dominant win in the second-tier Xfinity event on Saturday.

Harvick started fourth in the Cup race and quickly proved he had the car to beat.

Harvick was comfortably in the lead when Trevor Bayne’s engine blew with 28 laps to go. The restart gave contenders a chance to grab the lead, but Harvick beat Keselowski to remain in control.

“What a relief,” Harvick told his crew after crossing the finish line. He led 292 laps in Atlanta last year before finishing ninth following a pit road speeding penalty.

The start was delayed 2 hours, 30 minutes by rain. There was no additional significant rain until immediately after the race.

“Turns out Mother Nature is a race fan,” said Clint Bowyer, who finished third, giving Ford drivers the top three spots.

Denny Hamlin was fourth.

Harvick showed his strength when he charged through the field after an unscheduled pit stop dropped him to 19th midway through the race.

“If he hadn’t had the pit row issue today he probably would have led 300-something laps,” Keselowski said.

Rookie Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr., coming off a second-place finish at last week’s Daytona 500, finished 32nd. Wallace was the first black driver in the Daytona 500 field since 1969, and he became the first black Cup racer in an Atlanta race since Bill Lester finished 38th in 2006.

Martin Truex Jr., the 2017 series champion, started 35th after failing to qualify on Saturday but was up to fourth by the 12th lap before finishing fifth.

Jimmie Johnson, who won in Atlanta in 2015 and 2016, finished 27th. There were no wrecks but there was a caution after Johnson’s spin in turn 2 on lap 160.

With no “open” cars, the 36-car field was NASCAR’s smallest since 1996.



Sunday from the 2.5-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway (starting position in parentheses):

1. (3) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 325 laps, 0 rating, 56 points.

2. (5) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 325, 0, 53.

3. (9) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 325, 0, 45.

4. (12) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 325, 0, 40.

5. (35) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 325, 0, 39.

6. (16) Joey Logano, Ford, 325, 0, 39.

7. (1) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 325, 0, 43.

8. (7) Kurt Busch, Ford, 325, 0, 41.

9. (8) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 325, 0, 36.

10. (27) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 325, 0, 27.

11. (10) Erik Jones, Toyota, 325, 0, 26.

12. (26) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 325, 0, 25.

13. (11) Aric Almirola, Ford, 325, 0, 33.

14. (25) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 324, 0, 23.

15. (4) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 324, 0, 23.

16. (6) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, 324, 0, 21.

17. (15) Paul Menard, Ford, 324, 0, 20.

18. (23) William Byron, Chevrolet, 323, 0, 19.

19. (13) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 323, 0, 18.

20. (18) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 322, 0, 17.

21. (14) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 322, 0, 16.

22. (2) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 322, 0, 15.

23. (29) David Ragan, Ford, 321, 0, 14.

24. (17) Michael McDowell, Ford, 321, 0, 13.

25. (24) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 321, 0, 12.

26. (28) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 321, 0, 11.

27. (22) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 321, 0, 10.

28. (32) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 320, 0, 9.

29. (21) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 320, 0, 8.

30. (34) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 319, 0, 0.

31. (30) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 319, 0, 6.

32. (19) Darrell Wallace Jr, Chevrolet, 319, 0, 5.

33. (36) Harrison Rhodes, Chevrolet, 310, 0, 4.

34. (33) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 305, 0, 3.

35. (20) Trevor Bayne, Ford, engine, 292, 0, 2.

36. (31) Gray Gaulding, Toyota, accident, 99, 0, 1.


Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 143.071 mph.

Time of Race: 3 hours, 29 minutes, 54 seconds.

Margin of Victory: 2.690 seconds.

Caution Flags: 5 for 0 laps.

Lead Changes: 24 among 8 drivers.

Lap Leaders: Ky.Busch 0; R.Newman 1-17; Ky.Busch 18-20; K.Harvick 21-31; Ky.Busch 32; K.Harvick 33-88; M.Truex 89; B.Keselowski 90-100; Ku.Busch 101-125; K.Harvick 126-127; Ky.Busch 128-131; K.Harvick 132-159; Ku.Busch 160; B.Keselowski 161-172; Ku.Busch 173-198; B.Keselowski 199-213; Ky.Busch 214; D.Hamlin 215-225; K.Harvick 226-252; D.Hamlin 253-265; K.Harvick 266-288; D.Hamlin 289-290; K.Harvick 291-299; J.Logano 300; K.Harvick 301-325

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): K.Harvick, 8 times for 173 laps; Ku.Busch, 3 times for 49 laps; B.Keselowski, 3 times for 35 laps; D.Hamlin, 3 times for 23 laps; R.Newman, 1 time for 16 laps; Ky.Busch, 5 times for 5 laps; J.Logano, 1 time for 0 laps; M.Truex, 1 time for 0 laps.

Wins: A.Dillon, 1; K.Harvick, 1.

Top 16 in Points: 1. J.Logano, 89; 2. R.Blaney, 83; 3. D.Hamlin, 77; 4. K.Harvick, 75; 5. C.Bowyer, 74; 6. A.Dillon, 70; 7. M.Truex, 69; 8. Ku.Busch, 68; 9. A.Almirola, 66; 10. P.Menard, 66; 11. Ky.Busch, 61; 12. B.Keselowski, 58; 13. K.Larson, 54; 14. M.McDowell, 52; 15. D.Wallace, 52; 16. R.Newman, 49.

NASCAR: Kyle Busch wins Atlanta pole, Wallace still in spotlight

This gallery contains 1 photo.

HAMPTON, Ga. (AP) — Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. was the hot topic even as Kyle Busch won the pole Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Busch will start in front Sunday in the second race of the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup season after edging Ryan Newman in a close battle.

Busch overcame handling problems in the first two rounds of qualifying to win the pole with a lap of 184.652 mph in the third round. Busch won his 28th career pole, and his first at Atlanta.

Busch beat Newman’s 184.419 mph.

Wallace will start 19th, in the middle of the 36-car field. Much of the talk Friday remained on his second-place finish in last week’s Daytona 500 .

Wallace was the first black driver in the Daytona 500 field since 1969 . The second-place finish was the highest for a black driver and any rookie.

“It was just crazy, awesome,” Wallace said Friday.

On Sunday, he’ll be the first black Cup racer in an Atlanta race since Bill Lester finished 38th in 2006.

Ryan Blaney, who will start 26th, revealed Friday that last week Dale Earnhardt Jr . was so worried about Wallace that he arranged for Blaney to provide counsel for the rookie.

“He was like ‘Hey, I need you to go call Bubba and calm him down because I think he was getting overwhelmed with all the media and the pressure that was kind of being thrown upon him and we haven’t even gotten started yet,'” Ryan Blaney said.

Blaney, who is friends with both Earnhardt and Wallace, said he encouraged Wallace to enjoy the “well-deserved opportunity.”

Blaney said the second-place finish proved Wallace “dealt with it really well.”

Kevin Harvick qualified third, followed by Daniel Suarez. Defending champion Brad Keselowski qualified fifth. Austin Dillon, coming off the win at Daytona, will start 25th.

Defending NASCAR Cup champion Martin Truex will start 35th after his car did not pass inspection. As a penalty, car chief Blake Harris was suspended for the weekend and a 30-minute practice hold will be enforced on Saturday.

Wallace finished sixth in Atlanta’s Xfinity race last year.

“This will be my first time in Atlanta in a Cup car,” he said. “I know how this place is in an Xfinity car and it’s not any fun, well it’s a lot of fun, don’t get me wrong, but hanging onto that thing is a challenge. I’m looking forward to it.”

Wallace’s boss, team owner Richard Petty, said the rookie is adjusting just fine.

“No, he don’t feel like he’s a rookie,” Petty said. “… I think he fell in really good with the guys who have been there for a long time because so far he hasn’t done anything really stupid. As long as we keep him straight, he’ll be OK.”

The strong showing at Daytona solidified the status of Wallace, 24, as a rising star in NASCAR.

Atlanta Motor Speedway president Ed Clark said calls to his ticket office this week were dominated by fans expressing interest in Wallace.

“He’s going to be great,” Clark said.

Blaney and Wallace have been friends since the two 10-year-old boys raced Bandolero cars together.

Blaney said he believes Wallace “can have a huge impact” on the 43 Chevrolet and “grow it to places it hasn’t been in recent years.”

The only distraction for Wallace is a feud with Denny Hamlin. Wallace said Friday he has been excluded from Hamlin’s informal golf league, which includes a few other NASCAR drivers. Wallace added “I removed myself” from Hamlin’s basketball league.

The problems between the two began last week when Wallace objected to what Hamlin said was intended to be a joke when he claimed 70 percent of NASCAR drivers take the prescription drug Adderall to help with concentration.


For more AP racing coverage:

NASCAR heads to Atlanta with a Daytona 500 hangover

This gallery contains 1 photo.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Austin Dillon is still celebrating his Daytona 500 victory and Bubba Wallace is relishing his sudden breakout as NASCAR’s newest star.

Denny Hamlin? Well, he’s in the middle of another feud, and it’s only the second week of the season.

NASCAR moves from the Daytona 500 this weekend to Atlanta Motor Speedway with a bit of a hangover from the biggest party of its season.

Hamlin earned a call to the NASCAR hauler for a comment he made last week on the “Barstool Sports” podcast in which he claimed 70 percent of NASCAR drivers take the prescription drug Adderall to help with concentration.

Adderall is on NASCAR’s banned substance list without a doctor prescription.

Hamlin claimed it was a joke made on an irreverent podcast, but Wallace didn’t let it go after nudging Hamlin for second place in the Daytona 500. The two raced door-to-door to the finish, and Hamlin has repeatedly said the contact cut his tire.

But after his historic second-place finish — Wallace was the first black driver in the Daytona 500 field since 1969 — he took a shot at Hamlin for the final lap racing that in Hamlin’s mind went too far.

“He might need to take some Adderall for that one,” Wallace said on the Fox broadcast after he climbed from his car.

Told of the crack in his post-race news conference, Hamlin again maintained Wallace’s contact had cut his tire. He didn’t respond to the Adderall mention and exited the room.

Once outside the media center, he bumped into Wallace, and the two had a brief but heated exchange.

Public sentiment is on Wallace’s side — few fans have forgiven Hamlin since he wrecked Chase Elliott at Martinsville last fall — and Hamlin angrily took to Twitter to tell his side of the story.

Hamlin late Tuesday night called his Twitter critics “idiots,” and explained he had no beef about the ending of the race. His problem was the final question of his news conference, when he was asked for a response to Wallace’s remark.

“I had no issue until not only did he place blame on me but then went on to make personal comments about myself. I left the media center and saw Bubba 30 secs later,” Hamlin posted in a series of tweets.

“Anyone who wouldn’t take offense to the stupid things that was said has absolutely no backbone. I have one,” he concluded.

Wallace was dubious of Hamlin’s take on the last-lap racing on Sunday night, but believed the two would move on to Atlanta and be fine. He did, however, wonder if he was going to be kicked out of the Hamlin-led recreational basketball and golf leagues.

Turns out, though, that it wasn’t just NASCAR that was annoyed with Hamlin’s Adderall assessment.

Kevin Harvick used his Tuesday night SiriusXM show to note plenty of drivers are upset with Hamlin.

“Those 70 percent of drivers he referred to are mad,” Harvick said. “Whether he thinks it was an off-the-cuff comment and something he meant to say or not to say, it still offended most everybody in the garage. If you’re going to play around, joking and think it’s not something that everybody is going to take offense to. I think he’s probably seeing that nobody really appreciated it and it put everybody in a bad spot.”

Angry drivers are just one of many things to keep an eye on at Atlanta.

There are so far only 36 cars entered for Sunday’s race, which would make it the smallest field in decades. Only 39 cars competed at Atlanta last year, and that was the smallest field in 20 years.

NASCAR had allowed a maximum 43 cars starting in 1998, and hit that number until only 42 cars showed up at a 2014 race in Kentucky. Under the charter system, with only 36 cars guaranteed spots in the field, NASCAR cut the field to a maximum of 40 each week.

But the bulk of the purse goes to the chartered teams, and it’s a financial burden for “open” cars to show up every week and fight for the remaining four slots in the field.

The new charter system meant that only 40 cars tried to make the Daytona 500, which made the qualifying races pointless because no driver was battling for a spot in the field. Asked about the small car counts at Daytona, NASCAR executive Steve O’Donnell said the series prefers a strong entry list over backmarkers and field fillers.

“I think it is one of the best fields we’ve had, it’s deep,” O’Donnell said. “In the future, would we like to see more? We probably would. But when you look across all of sports now, the idea of sending someone home with a major sponsor, it just doesn’t happen in sports today. It’s not just a reality for NASCAR, it’s all motorsports, and sports in general.”

Team owner Roger Penske also wasn’t bothered by the field size.

“What we need is the continuity with all the same drivers and cars running across the whole season,” he said. “I think this is really a sign of the times, and that’s the way it’s going to be.”

And, keep an eye on the Toyota teams, especially Martin Truex Jr.

The most dominating manufacturer of 2017 came up empty at Daytona, and Truex, the defending series champion, led just four laps in three races. Toyota drivers did not win a single Cup event at Daytona.

But Atlanta at 1.54-miles is in Truex’s wheelhouse, and he won seven races on intermediate tracks last year. Truex’s average finish last year in 11 races at 1.5-mile tracks was second.

“While Daytona is the biggest and most prestigious race to win, the season actually starts at a downforce track,” Truex said. “Atlanta should give us a good indication how we fare against the competition.”

So, yeah, NASCAR rolls its show into Atlanta with everyone mad at Hamlin, Wallace out to prove he’s the real deal and Truex and the Toyota camp trying to reclaim their footing.

Buckle up, it’s going to be a long season.


More AP Auto Racing:

NASCAR’s youth movement may be good for business

This gallery contains 1 photo.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Daytona Day was nothing short of a rousing success for NASCAR, which was able to celebrate both its storied past and youthful future on its biggest stage.

The Daytona 500 is the most important event of the year for NASCAR. With Austin Dillon’s victory in the famed No. 3 and Bubba Wallace’s history-making, second-place finish, NASCAR got perhaps its most promising glimpse to date of the next generation.

Dillon wrecked Aric Almirola on the final lap in overtime at Daytona International Speedway to drive the car owned by his grandfather, Richard Childress , back into victory lane 17 years to the day that Dale Earnhardt was killed in an accident on the final lap of the season opener. It came 20 years after Earnhardt’s only Daytona 500 victory, and in just the fifth appearance for the No. 3 in “The Great American Race” since Earnhardt’s death.

Dillon and much of his Richard Childress Racing crew celebrated into the wee hours Monday by getting tattoos, permanent ones, on their buttocks.

Wallace, driving the iconic No. 43 for Richard Petty, was the first black driver in the Daytona 500 field since 1969. His finish was the highest of any black driver in the 500 since Wendell Scott was 13th in 1966.

Wallace has rocketed to fame in the last month and won new fans following an emotional, post-race scene that included a long, tearful embrace with his mother that symbolized the struggles Wallace has faced on the road to NASCAR’s top series.

Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron called him before the Daytona 500, and Lewis Hamilton, the only black driver in Formula One, tweeted he would be cheering for Wallace. When told about Hamilton’s well-wishes, Wallace admitted to “fan-girling out.”

“I look up to him. He does so many great things in the F1 world. … Then he sent out a tweet and I got weak at the knees,” Wallace said.

Wallace noted what the kind words from Aaron and Hamilton really mean for the sport.

“People are tuning in and hopefully noticing the new face and the new change that’s coming to NASCAR,” he said.

Wallace entered the season without sponsorship for the full season, but NASCAR Racing Experience announced Monday it would be the primary sponsor for the No. 43 Chevrolet this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

There has been much angst over NASCAR’s problems, and there are many issues, including the disappointing television rating for the Daytona 500. The 5.1 overnight for Fox was down 22 percent from last year.

It’s problematic, and NASCAR needs to find new reasons for fans to watch. There had been much hand-wringing over the retirements of Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick , but it may have been unnecessary worry.

Why? Because their replacements are really racy and showed Sunday they aren’t content to simply turn laps in a pack, collect a paycheck and take a chartered flight home.

Wallace sparred with 2016 winner Denny Hamlin on the final lap, then criticized Hamlin afterward. Ryan Blaney led a race-high 118 laps and wrecked Kurt Busch, last year’s winner, trying to win the race. Chase Elliott was wrecked racing for points at the end of the first stage. Alex Bowman started from the pole and was the top Hendrick Motorsports driver.

All those drivers are under 30 years old and the future of the sport. If they race the rest of the season as they did at Daytona, the on-track product might actually be pretty good.

The changing of the guard was so palpable at Daytona that Dillon could feel the energy in the garage. Once awe-struck to be racing against his childhood heroes, Dillon is part of a new crop eager to spice up the series. Previously, he just wanted to stay out of the way of the veterans.

“I feel like a lot of these guys are coming in, we’re all going to start trying to be ourselves because the people that led our sport for so long have kind of moved out,” Dillon said. “It definitely feels good to have Bubba and I up there and fighting. I think there’s going to be some great battles this year with all the young guys.

“There’s going to be storylines, and the NASCAR fans are going to love what they see.”


More AP Auto Racing:


Daytona 500 Takeaways: Austin Dillon gets some extra luck, Jimmie Johnson finds more misery

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports)    —-    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Austin Dillon became the first driver to lock himself into the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs with his surprising victory in the 60th annual Daytona 500.

Dillon, 27, led the only lap that mattered — the final one — but that was enough to send the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet to victory lane after a multitude of cars were reduced to mangled metal following Sunday’s wild wreck fest.

Five takeaways (other than the cars that were towed away) from Sunday’s Daytona 500:

SAVE YOUR PENNIES — The penny thing and the No. 3 car is officially a trend.

Twenty years ago, before he won the Daytona 500 for the first and only time, Dale Earnhardt Sr. received a “lucky” penny from a young fan. Earnhardt glued the coin to the dash of his Chevrolet, and he ended a 20-year drought by winning the race.

The penny remains glued to that spot on the winning No. 3.

This week at Daytona, a fan attending an autograph session gave a penny to Austin Dillon and wished him luck in the 500. He glued the penny to the left side of his dash, and, of course, he won the race.

Dillon said Sunday night the penny has found a permanent home. As with every winning Daytona 500 vehicle, the car will be on display at Daytona International Speedway for a year. Along with the penny.

SO, DOES ANYTHING GO? — The three NASCAR national series races at Daytona over the weekend were filled with crashes.

Teams left Daytona with battered race cars and bruised feelings. Wrecks are expected at restrictor-plate tracks because the drafting packs are so crowded, but the numbers of crashes reached absurd levels.

On Sunday in the 500, 14 cars were eliminated in accidents, and several others were wounded. Only 25 of 40 drivers finished NASCAR’s showcase race.

Drivers pushed and shoved and blocked and side-drafted and performed practically every move in the book either trying to hold positions or advance. On the final lap, Austin Dillon claimed first place by bumping Aric Almirola from the lead.

Some fans on social media criticized Dillon’s move, but it’s difficult to find room for that sort of complaint when virtually the same thing was happening throughout the weekend.

Almirola wasn’t upset at Dillon after the race. He said he tried to block the pass but Dillon charged through anyway, a move Almirola expected.

“(Dillon) was not driving too aggressively,” Almirola asserted, “he’s trying to win the Daytona 500 just like I was. It’s the biggest race of the year, and it’s a career-changing race, so we were just racing really aggressively.”

Dillon said, in effect, that anything goes on the final lap of the Daytona 500. “It is what it is here at Daytona.”

Look for more of the same when the series rolls into Talladega, Ala. in April.

JOHNSON ‘THREE FOR THREE’ — It was a rough seasonal start for seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver crashed in all three races — the Advance Auto Parts Clash exhibition race, his Thursday qualifier in the Can-Am Duel and the Daytona 500. He was knocked out of the 500 on lap 60 as drivers made a mad dash to try to win the race’s first stage.

“It looked like everybody thought that was the finish of the Daytona 500 and it was really only lap 59 coming to 60,” Johnson said.

He had no idea that much bigger wrecks were ahead.

BLANEY DEBUTS WITH PENSKE — Ryan Blaney was among the drivers in new situations who stood out Sunday.

Driving a Team Penske car for the first time after leaving Penske satellite Wood Brothers Racing, Blaney led 118 of the race’s 207 laps and was in the hunt for the win until the madness of the closing laps.

Blaney finished seventh Sunday after taking the runner-up spot in his Wood Brothers car behind Kurt Busch last year .

ON TO ATLANTA — After a long fortnight in Daytona Beach, most teams — those of winner Austin Dillon and runner-up Bubba Wallace the notable exceptions – will be quite happy to move on to Atlanta Motor Speedway and the relative calm of the season’s second race.

The Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET (Fox) next Sunday at AMS in Hampton, Ga., south of metro Atlanta.

The AMS race should give the first hints as to which teams might show the most strength on intermediate tracks.


— Daytona Day was nothing short of a rousing success for NASCAR, which was able to celebrate both its storied past and youthful future on its biggest stage.

The Daytona 500 is the most important event of the year for NASCAR. With Austin Dillon’s victory in the famed No. 3 and Bubba Wallace’s history-making, second-place finish, NASCAR got perhaps its most promising glimpse to date of the next generation.

Dillon wrecked Aric Almirola on the final lap in overtime at Daytona International Speedway to drive the car owned by his grandfather, Richard Childress , back into victory lane 17 years to the day that Dale Earnhardt was killed in an accident on the final lap of the season opener. It came 20 years after Earnhardt’s only Daytona 500 victory, and in just the fifth appearance for the No. 3 in “The Great American Race” since Earnhardt’s death.

Dillon and much of his Richard Childress Racing crew celebrated into the wee hours Monday by getting tattoos, permanent ones, on their buttocks.

Wallace, driving the iconic No. 43 for Richard Petty, was the first black driver in the Daytona 500 field since 1969. His finish was the highest of any black driver in the 500 since Wendell Scott was 13th in 1966.

Wallace has rocketed to fame in the last month and won new fans following an emotional, post-race scene that included a long, tearful embrace with his mother that symbolized the struggles Wallace has faced on the road to NASCAR’s top series.

Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron called him before the Daytona 500, and Lewis Hamilton, the only black driver in Formula One, tweeted he would be cheering for Wallace. When told about Hamilton’s well-wishes, Wallace admitted to “fan-girling out.”

“I look up to him. He does so many great things in the F1 world. … Then he sent out a tweet and I got weak at the knees,” Wallace said.

Wallace noted what the kind words from Aaron and Hamilton really mean for the sport.

“People are tuning in and hopefully noticing the new face and the new change that’s coming to NASCAR,” he said.

Wallace entered the season without sponsorship for the full season, but NASCAR Racing Experience announced Monday it would be the primary sponsor for the No. 43 Chevrolet this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

There has been much angst over NASCAR’s problems, and there are many issues, including the disappointing television rating for the Daytona 500. The 5.1 overnight for Fox was down 22 percent from last year.

It’s problematic, and NASCAR needs to find new reasons for fans to watch. There had been much hand-wringing over the retirements of Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick , but it may have been unnecessary worry.

Why? Because their replacements are really racy and showed Sunday they aren’t content to simply turn laps in a pack, collect a paycheck and take a chartered flight home.

Wallace sparred with 2016 winner Denny Hamlin on the final lap, then criticized Hamlin afterward. Ryan Blaney led a race-high 118 laps and wrecked Kurt Busch, last year’s winner, trying to win the race. Chase Elliott was wrecked racing for points at the end of the first stage. Alex Bowman started from the pole and was the top Hendrick Motorsports driver.

All those drivers are under 30 years old and the future of the sport. If they race the rest of the season as they did at Daytona, the on-track product might actually be pretty good.

The changing of the guard was so palpable at Daytona that Dillon could feel the energy in the garage. Once awe-struck to be racing against his childhood heroes, Dillon is part of a new crop eager to spice up the series. Previously, he just wanted to stay out of the way of the veterans.

“I feel like a lot of these guys are coming in, we’re all going to start trying to be ourselves because the people that led our sport for so long have kind of moved out,” Dillon said. “It definitely feels good to have Bubba and I up there and fighting. I think there’s going to be some great battles this year with all the young guys.

“There’s going to be storylines, and the NASCAR fans are going to love what they see.”



NASCAR: Austin Dillon takes No. 3 back to victory lane at Daytona

This gallery contains 2 photos.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — The No. 3 is No. 1 again at Daytona, on a day, in a race and at a place forever linked with the great Dale Earnhardt.

Austin Dillon won the Daytona 500 on Sunday night driving the iconic No. 3 Chevrolet that Earnhardt piloted for most of his career. Earnhardt was behind the wheel of No. 3 when he won his only Daytona 500 in 1998, and when he was killed in an accident on the final lap of the race three years later.

Dillon’s victory, in the 60th running of “The Great American Race ,” came 17 years to the day of Earnhardt’s fatal crash .

“Man, this place is awesome,” said Dillon. “I don’t know what it is about storylines and Daytona. This place just creates history and I’m proud to be a part of it and make some history here.”

Dillon wasn’t a factor in his Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet until the final lap in overtime when he got a push from Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr . that helped him get to leader Aric Almirola. Dillon spun Almirola then whizzed on by to give Childress, his grandfather, another iconic victory in the beloved No. 3.

“My grandfather has done everything for me and everybody knows it,” Dillon said. “There’s a lot of pressure on me to perform because I’ve had a little bit of everything. But I like that pressure, the same with the No. 3, there’s a lot of pressure behind it, but I’m willing to take it and go with it.”

As for the aggressive move that wrecked Almirola? Dillon was doing what has to be done to win at Daytona, where he led just once for one lap — the final one.

“I think I blacked out and just everything just kind of kept going, and we were staying in the gas, and things were happening fast. The last lap of the Daytona 500, you just don’t lift, actually the last couple laps,” Dillon said, adding his only other option was to ease off the gas and avoid Almirola.

“I guess I could have lifted and gave it to him,” he said. “I guess that was my other option, give up a Daytona 500 ring that I’m wearing. If he needs to do it to (retaliate) at Talladega for everybody to feel good, I’ve got a Daytona 500 championship trophy, ring, whatever. I don’t care. I’ve got the 3 back in victory lane at Daytona.”

Almirola, in his debut race for Stewart-Haas Racing, was devastated.

“My heart is broken. I thought I was going to win the Daytona 500,” Almirola said.

Childress was overjoyed.

“To come back 20 years later after Dale’s great victory, and to be able to celebrate 20 years later, with my grandson, it is just a storybook tale,” Childress said. “It’s tough on him running that 3, but we had, I’d say, 97 percent support from Earnhardt fans who wanted him to run that number.”

The No. 3 was dormant in the Cup Series from Earnhardt’s death until Childress brought it back in 2014 for his grandson.

The final scoring tower showed the No. 3 on top, then the No. 43 — two of the most seminal numbers in NASCAR.

“I looked up, seen the board up here, the 3 and the 43, I thought, how special is that for the history,” Childress said.

Wallace, the first black driver in the Daytona 500 field since 1969, finished second in a 1-2 finish for Chevrolet and Childress’ engine program. Wallace drives the No. 43 car for Richard Petty and sobbed in his post-race news conference after his mother came to the front of the room to give him a hug. The two had a long embrace in which she told Wallace repeatedly “you’ve waited so long, baby.”

After another moment with his sister , Wallace sat at the dais sobbing into a towel. His finish is the highest for a black driver; Wendell Scott finished 13th in 1966.

“Pull it together, bud, pull it together. You just finished second,” he told himself.

Wallace, from Mobile, Alabama, received a telephone call from Hank Aaron before the race and Lewis Hamilton, the four-time Formula One world champion and only black driver in that series, tweeted his support to Wallace.

Denny Hamlin, the 2016 winner, finished third in a Toyota.

Ryan Blaney, who led a race-high 118 laps, faded to seventh after giving the win away in regulation. He wrecked Kurt Busch, the defending race winner, trying to reclaim his lead and the contact damaged Blaney’s Ford. It spoiled what should have been a Team Penske party — car owner Roger Penske had three contenders, all considered favorites — but all came up empty. Brad Keselowski wrecked early racing for the lead and although Joey Logano finished fourth, it wasn’t the victory Penske expected from one of his drivers.

“It’s a shame you don’t close it out, but you try to just learn from your mistakes and try to do better next time,” Blaney said. “This one definitely stings, but hopefully we can get another shot at it one day.”

The day was also a bust for Danica Patrick, who made the Daytona 500 her final NASCAR race. With new boyfriend NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers cheering her on, Patrick was collected in an accident and finished 35th. The only woman to lead laps in the Daytona 500 and win the pole for this race then told a story about an exchange she had earlier this week with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon.

“He said his last Daytona didn’t go well, either, and I was like ‘Oh wow, I don’t remember that. I remember your career.’ So I hope that is how it is with me with everybody,” she said.

Meanwhile, on this celebratory day for Dillon and Childress, the late Earnhardt had a very large presence.

Dillon was 7 when Earnhardt won his Daytona 500 and was photographed alongside his brother with The Intimidator on that victorious day in 1998. Earnhardt credited 6-year-old Wessa Miller, a fan he met through the Make-A-Wish Foundation following the final practice for the race, for helping him get that elusive win. Wessa gave Earnhardt the penny and told him she had rubbed it and that it would bring him good luck. The lucky penny the little girl gave him is still on the dash of the car at the RCR museum.

Inspired by the good-luck coin, Dillon also had a penny in the No. 3 on Sunday, this one given to him by a young boy he met at an autograph session earlier in Speedweeks.

“I had a fan, actually he had no favorite driver, I told him, I said, ‘I’ll give you my hat if I’m your favorite driver.’ I gave him the hat,” Dillon said. “The next day he saw me in the infield, he said, ‘Here’s a lucky penny I found heads up.’ I said, ‘Man, we’ve gotta put that in the car.’ Put it in the car and here we are in victory lane.”




Sunday from the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway (starting position in parentheses):

1. (14) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 207 laps, 0 rating, 42 points.

2. (7) Darrell Wallace Jr, Chevrolet, 207, 0, 39.

3. (2) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 207, 0, 35.

4. (5) Joey Logano, Ford, 207, 0, 41.

5. (21) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 207, 0, 32.

6. (16) Paul Menard, Ford, 207, 0, 42.

7. (3) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 207, 0, 48.

8. (13) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 207, 0, 29.

9. (22) Michael McDowell, Ford, 207, 0, 39.

10. (20) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 207, 0, 27.

11. (37) Aric Almirola, Ford, 206, 0, 33.

12. (29) Justin Marks, Chevrolet, 206, 0, 0.

13. (18) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 206, 0, 28.

14. (39) David Gilliland, Ford, 206, 0, 0.

15. (10) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 206, 0, 22.

16. (19) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 205, 0, 21.

17. (1) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 205, 0, 29.

18. (24) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 205, 0, 30.

19. (38) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 204, 0, 18.

20. (34) Gray Gaulding, Toyota, 204, 0, 17.

21. (27) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 204, 0, 16.

22. (40) Mark Thompson, Ford, 203, 0, 15.

23. (33) William Byron, Chevrolet, 203, 0, 14.

24. (30) D.J. Kennington, Toyota, 201, 0, 13.

25. (12) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 200, 0, 12.

26. (11) Kurt Busch, Ford, accident, 198, 0, 21.

27. (36) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, accident, 198, 0, 10.

28. (25) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, accident, 198, 0, 9.

29. (9) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, accident, 197, 0, 15.

30. (15) David Ragan, Ford, accident, 107, 0, 7.

31. (6) Kevin Harvick, Ford, accident, 105, 0, 10.

32. (31) Brad Keselowski, Ford, accident, 102, 0, 5.

33. (4) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, accident, 101, 0, 7.

34. (26) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, accident, 101, 0, 3.

35. (28) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, accident, 101, 0, 2.

36. (8) Erik Jones, Toyota, accident, 59, 0, 1.

37. (17) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, accident, 59, 0, 1.

38. (35) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, accident, 59, 0, 1.

39. (23) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, accident, 59, 0, 1.

40. (32) Corey Lajoie, Chevrolet, engine, 8, 0, 1.


Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 150.551 mph.

Time of Race: 3 hours, 26 minutes, 15 seconds.

Margin of Victory: 0.260 seconds.

Caution Flags: 8 for 37 laps.

Lead Changes: 24 among 14 drivers.

Lap Leaders: A.Bowman 0; D.Hamlin 1-10; J.Marks 11; Ku.Busch 12-14; A.Bowman 15-22; E.Jones 23-33; R.Stenhouse 34-44; C.Elliott 45-48; J.Logano 49-51; Ku.Busch 52-62; A.Bowman 63-67; R.Blaney 68-93; P.Menard 94; M.Truex 95-98; R.Blaney 99-122; A.Allmendinger 123; R.Blaney 124-170; D.Hamlin 171-173; R.Blaney 174-193; D.Hamlin 194; Ku.Busch 195-196; R.Blaney 197; D.Hamlin 198-205; A.Almirola 206; A.Dillon 207

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): R.Blaney, 5 times for 113 laps; D.Hamlin, 4 times for 18 laps; Ku.Busch, 3 times for 13 laps; A.Bowman, 3 times for 11 laps; E.Jones, 1 time for 10 laps; R.Stenhouse, 1 time for 10 laps; C.Elliott, 1 time for 3 laps; M.Truex, 1 time for 3 laps; J.Logano, 1 time for 2 laps; A.Allmendinger, 1 time for 0 laps; A.Almirola, 1 time for 0 laps; A.Dillon, 1 time for 0 laps; J.Marks, 1 time for 0 laps; P.Menard, 1 time for 0 laps.

Wins: A.Dillon, 1.

Top 16 in Points: 1. R.Blaney, 48; 2. A.Dillon, 42; 3. P.Menard, 42; 4. J.Logano, 41; 5. M.McDowell, 39; 6. D.Wallace, 39; 7. D.Hamlin, 35; 8. A.Almirola, 33; 9. C.Buescher, 32; 10. M.Truex, 30; 11. A.Bowman, 29; 12. R.Newman, 29; 13. T.Bayne, 28; 14. A.Allmendinger, 27; 15. C.Bowyer, 22; 16. Ku.Busch, 21.

NASCAR – Xfinity Series: Tyler Reddick needs 5 overtimes to win at Daytona

This gallery contains 2 photos.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Tyler Reddick needed five overtimes, a brief red flag and the closest finish in NASCAR history to take Dale Earnhardt Jr. to victory lane.

Reddick won the Xfinity Series’ season-opening race by beating JR Motorsports teammate Elliott Sadler in a photo finish. The margin of victory was 0.000 seconds, breaking the mark set by Butch Miller when he beat Mike Skinner by 0.001 seconds to win the Truck Series race July 15, 1995 at Colorado National Speedway.

“How do I protest that? It’s a tie, and it should go to the elder,” joked veteran Sadler of the win that went to the 22-year-old Reddick.

Reddick later joked a protest was still a winning proposition for the organization.

“Either way, JR Motorsports wins, right?” Reddick said. “That was insane. I saw a picture of it 10 minutes ago and it was just enough.”

It was a nail-biting and tense opener at Daytona International Speedway for NASCAR’s second-tier series, which celebrated its 100th race sponsored by Xfinity on Saturday.

The victory came in Reddick’s debut race for JR Motorsports, the team in part owned by Earnhardt Jr. This is Earnhardt’s first season in retirement from full-time racing and his presence at the race track is still strong through his race team.

JR Motorsports has won five of the last nine Xfinity Series races at Daytona, and Reddick’s victory led a 1-2 sweep for the company.

“Either way, fine with me,” Earnhardt said of the finish. “I watched the whole thing, it was incredible. I was surprised by the amount of overtimes. Fans want to see a green-flag finish and NASCAR tries everything it can to give them that opportunity.”

Sadler was temporarily crestfallen. Sadler finished second in the 2002 Daytona 500 and was passed for the lead right before the rain came in the abbreviated 2009 race. His best finish in all three of NASCAR’s national series at Daytona is second.

“This one hurts a lot,” said Sadler. “I don’t know how many more starts I’ll have at this race track. I really want to get one of the trophies here at this place.”

For Reddick, it was his second Xfinity victory and in the biggest race to date of his career. He won once last year driving a partial schedule for Chip Ganassi, then moved to Earnhardt’s team this season.

“A hell of a way to start the year off with JR Motorsports,” Reddick said.

Ryan Reed was third, and Kaz Grala fourth, in Fords. Garrett Smithley was a career-best fifth and Daniel Suarez was the highest finishing Toyota driver in eighth.

“Was it only five overtimes? It felt like a dozen,” Grala said.

The race was zipping right along and dominated by the combination of Kyle Larson, Joey Logano and Chase Elliott. Then a late accident sent the race to overtime.

Larson, who led a race-high 61 laps, tried to block Aric Almirola after the restart and the contact caused Larson to spin and trigger an 18-car accident. Logano, who had led 28 laps, was also knocked out in the race.

It was a task to complete the race after that accident as restart after restart in overtime was halted by another accident. During the caution period following the third overtime, Elliott was black-flagged because the right-side window panel had fallen from his car. As he sat on pit road, cameras followed a crew member make a mad dash on foot back to the team hauler, where he directed a second crew member back to pit road with the needed part.

Another camera filmed members of another JR Motorsports team cheering on the effort.

Elliott, who led 17 laps, finished 12th.

The five overtimes — and a red flag of five minutes, 27 seconds — pushed the race 23 laps past the scheduled distance and forced teams to desperately conserve fuel after each caution.




Saturday from the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway (starting position in parentheses):

1. (9) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 143 laps, 0 rating, 50 points.

2. (11) Elliott Sadler, Chevrolet, 143, 0, 41.

3. (15) Ryan Reed, Ford, 143, 0, 34.

4. (27) Kaz Grala, Ford, 143, 0, 33.

5. (25) Garrett Smithley, Chevrolet, 143, 0, 32.

6. (4) Spencer Gallagher, Chevrolet, 143, 0, 39.

7. (6) Ryan Truex, Chevrolet, 143, 0, 35.

8. (17) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 143, 0, 0.

9. (23) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 143, 0, 28.

10. (18) Brandon Jones, Toyota, 143, 0, 27.

11. (31) Jeff Green, Chevrolet, 143, 0, 26.

12. (8) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 143, 0, 0.

13. (30) Caesar Bacarella, Chevrolet, 143, 0, 24.

14. (14) Cole Custer, Ford, 143, 0, 24.

15. (35) Stephen Leicht, Toyota, 143, 0, 22.

16. (24) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 143, 0, 21.

17. (32) David Starr, Chevrolet, 143, 0, 20.

18. (37) JJ Yeley, Chevrolet, 143, 0, 19.

19. (39) Matt Tifft, Chevrolet, 143, 0, 18.

20. (26) Vinnie Miller, Chevrolet, 143, 0, 17.

21. (21) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 143, 0, 16.

22. (40) Josh Williams, Chevrolet, 143, 0, 15.

23. (16) Joe Nemechek, Chevrolet, 143, 0, 0.

24. (22) Alex Labbe, Chevrolet, 142, 0, 13.

25. (34) Spencer Boyd, Chevrolet, 142, 0, 12.

26. (1) Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 140, 0, 18.

27. (20) Dylan Lupton, Ford, accident, 137, 0, 10.

28. (36) Chad Finchum, Chevrolet, 136, 0, 9.

29. (2) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, accident, 134, 0, 0.

30. (29) Ryan Ellis, Chevrolet, accident, 133, 0, 7.

31. (5) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, accident, 124, 0, 15.

32. (38) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, accident, 122, 0, 0.

33. (19) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, accident, 122, 0, 4.

34. (3) Joey Logano, Ford, accident, 121, 0, 0.

35. (12) Aric Almirola, Ford, accident, 121, 0, 0.

36. (28) Brandon Brown, Chevrolet, accident, 121, 0, 1.

37. (7) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, accident, 106, 0, 5.

38. (33) Gray Gaulding, Toyota, accident, 82, 0, 0.

39. (13) Christopher Bell, Toyota, accident, 11, 0, 1.

40. (10) Austin Cindric, Ford, accident, 10, 0, 1.


Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 119.107 mph.

Time of Race: 3 hours, 0 minutes, 6 seconds.

Margin of Victory: 0.000 seconds.

Caution Flags: 12 for 49 laps.

Lead Changes: 19 among 11 drivers.

Lap Leaders: D.Hemric 1-2; K.Larson 3; D.Hemric 4-8; K.Larson 9-32; G.Smithley 33; E.Sadler 34-35; K.Larson 36-46; C.Elliott 47-63; G.Smithley 64; A.Almirola 65-68; J.Logano 69-74; K.Larson 75; J.Logano 76-96; K.Larson 97-103; J.Logano 104; K.Larson 105-121; D.Suarez 122-126; R.Reed 127-129; R.Truex 130-132; T.Reddick 133-143

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): K.Larson, 6 times for 55 laps; J.Logano, 3 times for 25 laps; C.Elliott, 1 time for 16 laps; T.Reddick, 1 time for 10 laps; D.Hemric, 2 times for 5 laps; D.Suarez, 1 time for 4 laps; A.Almirola, 1 time for 3 laps; R.Reed, 1 time for 2 laps; R.Truex, 1 time for 2 laps; E.Sadler, 1 time for 1 lap; G.Smithley, 2 times for 0 laps.

Wins: T.Reddick, 1.

Top 10 in Points: 1. T.Reddick, 50; 2. E.Sadler, 41; 3. S.Gallagher, 39; 4. R.Truex, 35; 5. R.Reed, 34; 6. K.Grala, 33; 7. G.Smithley, 32; 8. R.Chastain, 28; 9. B.Jones, 27; 10. J.Green, 26.

NASCAR: Team Penske stakes claim as Daytona 500 favorites

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Roger Penske has a car capable of winning the Daytona 500.

Maybe even three of them.

Penske again went 1-2 at Daytona International Speedway for its second sweep of Speedweeks. This time, Ryan Blaney went to victory lane after winning the first of two Thursday night qualifying races that are used to set the Daytona 500 field.

Chase Elliott won the second race in a Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to put a temporary halt on the Team Penske dominance.

Joey Logano finished second to Penske teammate Blaney for the Ford sweep in the first race. Kevin Harvick was second to Elliott in the second race and Harvick was also in a Ford — proving the automaker has the same speed it did a year ago when it swept all four restrictor-plate races.

“I definitely think we have the fastest cars down here,” Harvick said. “Obviously, the Penske guys have done well in both races they’ve run this week. We’ll have the speed.”

Logano has finished second now twice in Speedweeks. He was beaten last week by teammate Brad Keselowski in an all-star race that opened activity at Daytona International Speedway.

Keselowski is the Las Vegas favorite to win Sunday’s season-opening Daytona 500, but he wrecked with two laps remaining in the qualifier and he’ll need a backup for the main event.

No matter, it seemed, because the Penske cars so far have the Daytona field covered.

“We’re going to make it happen,” Logano said about the Penske effort Sunday.

The three Penske drivers dominated the all-star race and were at the front of the field for the entire Thursday night race. Blaney won it in overtime after Keselowski’s accident brought out the caution.

Blaney did it with a pass that didn’t work last week. When he tried to pass Keselowski in the all-star race, he pulled out of traffic and didn’t get the help he needed to complete the move. This time he was able to get past leader Logano, then the Keselowski accident brought out the caution.

“I didn’t make a good move and I kind of lost that (all-star) race,” Blaney said. “I learned a little bit and I thought about that forever. I thought we learned a little bit from our mistakes. Hopefully we can make it another one here on Sunday. That would be the one that counts.”

On the restart in overtime, Blaney got a huge push from best friend Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. and pulled away for the win.

“I saw (he) was third and I’d figure he’d give me a good push,” Blaney said about Wallace.

Wallace finished third and was congratulated with a huge hug from team owner Richard Petty, the seven-time NASCAR champion.

“That is probably the highlight of the night, better than finishing third, just seeing how pumped he was,” Wallace said.

Jimmie Johnson was in his second accident of Speedweeks. The seven-time NASCAR champion dropped out of line just minutes after his race began with an apparent tire problem, and his car took an unexpected hard right into traffic. The contact wrecked Johnson, Daniel Suarez and Aric Almirola, and sent Johnson and Almirola to backup cars. He also wrecked on Sunday in the all-star exhibition race.

“Tough way to start Speedweeks,” Johnson said.

It wasn’t all bad for Hendrick Motorsports, though, as Elliott won his qualifying race for the second consecutive year. He might have won the Daytona 500, too, had he not run out of gas last year.

“We have the big one on Sunday — that is the main thing,” Elliott said.

Hendrick has one victory at Speedweeks and the pole for the Daytona 500. Both are firsts for Chevrolet’s new Cup effort, the Camaro.

The second qualifying race began with Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers watching from the top of girlfriend Danica Patrick’s pit box. The Daytona 500 is her final NASCAR race and Rodgers arrived in Daytona on Wednesday, Valentine’s Day, to support her effort.

He ignored questions from media as he climbed off the pit box following her 14th-place finish in her race. Patrick’s plan for the qualifier was simply to stay out of trouble and keep her Premium Motorsports entry clean for her final Daytona 500.

“I was just playing it safe,” she said.

Alex Bowman has the pole for the Daytona 500 based on last weeks’ time trials, and much like Patrick, his goal was simply to make it through the qualifying race unscathed. So Bowman dropped to the back of the pack and just made laps, a move that was criticized by veteran Harvick, a series champion and former Daytona 500 winner.

“Alex Bowman didn’t learn anything today, in my opinion,” Harvick said. “Riding around starting on the pole is great, but not knowing what your car is going to do is a complete waste of time.”

Bowman said it was obvious his Hendrick entry was set to contend for the pole and needs adjustments before it will be strong in race trim.

“We came down here to sit on the pole,” Bowman said. “We have an entire different setup that we can just make it drive better for the 500.”

NASCAR: Alex Bowman makes most of big break with Daytona 500 pole

This gallery contains 1 photo.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — His nickname is Bowman the Showman, yet that did little in helping Alex Bowman to get Rick Hendrick to remember his name.

Bowman was a journeyman driver who had already washed out of the Cup Series once when he found himself inside mighty Hendrick Motorsports with the opportunity of a lifetime. Perform well in a Hendrick car, and Bowman just might land a full-time job with one of NASCAR’s top organizations.

He had his work cut out for him: The boss initially believed his new driver was named Alex Baldwin, not Bowman.

“Then he showed the talent he had, the sponsors really liked him,” Hendrick said.

Bowman’s debut as the new driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet got off to a strong start when he won the pole for the Daytona 500. It’s a record-tying fourth consecutive year a Hendrick car has won the Daytona 500 pole.

Bowman will race Thursday night at Daytona International Speedway in one of the two qualifying events that sets the remainder of the field. The 24-year-old from Arizona has been here before, most recently in 2015, when a multicar accident in his qualifying race cost Bowman a spot in the Daytona 500.

His only previous start in the Daytona 500 was in 2014 when he finished 23rd as a rookie. He missed the race the next year, and was out of a job after the 2016 season. His break came when Dale Earnhardt Jr. found nine Xfinity Series races for Bowman to drive for JR Motorsports.

When a concussion sidelined Earnhardt for the second half of that season, Earnhardt talked Hendrick into giving Bowman a shot as the replacement driver. Bowman got 10 races and meshed well enough with the team that he got the job when Earnhardt retired after last season.

While he waited, Bowman sat on the sidelines.

“If you talked to me in 2015 and told me that in 2018 I was going to be driving the 88 car for Hendrick Motorsports, I would have called you nuts,” Bowman said. “You know, everything happens for a reason. My career had a lot of ups and downs, and I’ve been able to lean on my past experiences a lot to make me better and to better prepare myself for this job.

“I think I’m better because of the things that I had to go through. I got to make a lot of mistakes without anybody watching.”

All eyes will be on Bowman the rest of this week as he leads the rebuilt Hendrick roster into NASCAR’s biggest race of the year. Although the team is anchored by seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott is entering just his third season and William Byron will make his Cup debut in Sunday’s race.

Hendrick looks at this as a chance to give three young drivers a chance to develop on the job. Elliott was promoted when Jeff Gordon retired. Earnhardt got Bowman this shot at Hendrick. Byron made it to the Cup level in his third season in part because if Hendrick didn’t promote him, he’d likely lose the 20-year-old to another team.

“I can’t speak for the rest of the garage, but when I have an opening and here’s a guy that I’ve tried to groom, and he develops faster than I thought he could, and then if you don’t do something with him, someone else is,” Hendrick said. “So my idea this year was let’s let them learn in the stuff they’re going to be driving for a long time.”

Hendrick also commended Bowman for showing patience rather than just rushing into a ride after his 2016 stint in the No. 88. Bowman did get three events last year, two Xfinity Series races and a Truck Series race, but the rest of his time was spent in a simulator while he hoped Hendrick would come through with a job.

“He sat out a year when he had lots of opportunities, and he did that to wait for the opportunity with us,” Hendrick said. “That speaks a lot of his desire, and he’s spent an awesome amount of time in a simulator giving feedback. He’d run setups before the race for all the guys, after the race for all the guys. He was like a human computer for them. He paid his dues, and he deserves to be here.”



DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Getting behind the wheel of the most iconic car in NASCAR history might be enough to unnerve even the most confident of race car drivers.

But Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, the first full-time African-American driver in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series since Wendell Scott in 1971, and the first black driver in the Daytona 500 since 1969, has no fear of driving the No. 43 Chevrolet for Richard Petty Motorsports. That would be the same car that the legend drove to seven victories in the Daytona 500.

Perhaps it’s because The King himself imparted his wisdom to the brash 24-year-old driver from Mobile, Ala.

“Richard Petty told me before climbing in, ‘No need to be a hero. No need to overstep anything that you’re doing,’ ” Wallace said. “I’m here for a reason and here because I proved my point, so just go out there and do what you do.’ ”

Despite the extraordinary publicity he has received, including being the star of a docu-series that NASCAR is chronicling called Behind the Wall: Bubba Wallace, which will air this week and next on Facebook Watch, he’ll feel no added pressure when the green flag comes down to start the “The Great American Race” on Sunday at Daytona International Speedway.

The documentary, he says, has been stressful, “for sure, with cameras following you all the time, capturing everything, the only time they haven’t followed me is when I go to the bathroom and go to sleep. Everything in between, they’re there. But it will be a fun series to watch, that’s for sure.”


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The second half of the Danica Double lineup was confirmed Wednesday by none other than Danica Patrick — although in indirect fashion.

Talking to reporters during Daytona 500 Media Day Wednesday at the speedway, Patrick revealed without necessarily meaning to that she will drive for Ed Carpenter Racing in the May Indianapolis 500.

The IndyCar race is scheduled to be Patrick’s final motorsports competition. She will race in Sunday’s Daytona 500 and then plans to complete what she is calling the Danica Double at Indy in May.

Patrick reached an agreement with the Carpenter team recently and later said she planned a big “reveal” to showcase her plans for Indianapolis. But she let the ECR news slip Wednesday.

Patrick was asked when she will begin concentrating on Indy.

“I didn’t have time to meet up with Ed and the people…,” she said, pausing.

“Oh, did I just say that out loud?” she said. “Oh, well. I’ve never done that in my career.”

Patrick, 35, raced full-time in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series from 2013 to 2017. She went winless while posting seven top-10 finishes. Her best result at the Daytona 500 came during that rookie year when she won the pole and went on to finish eighth.

Before detouring to NASCAR, Patrick finished fourth in the Indy 500 as a rookie in 2005, was third in 2009 and scored six top-10 finishes in seven races in IndyCar’s most famous race. In seven years on the Verizon IndyCar circuit Patrick recorded one win (in Japan in 2008), three poles and seven podium finishes.


More AP Auto Racing:

NASCAR: Chevrolet, Ford spent offseason working to catch up to dominant Toyota

This gallery contains 1 photo.

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports)    —-    The exciting closing laps of last season’s NASCAR Cup championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway were about much more than Martin Truex Jr. masterfully holding off a charging Kyle Busch to win the title.

Truex and Busch both drove the season’s dominant vehicle — the Toyota Camry. Although Busch was disappointed in finishing second to Truex for NASCAR’s top prize, the fact that Toyotas swept across the finish line first and second simply underlined what was a year of domination for the Camry.

As teams prepare to open the door to a new season this week in Daytona Beach, Fla., they are shadowed by 2017 numbers that made Truex’s championship look like a lock:

  • Toyota won 16 races. Chevrolet and Ford won 10 each.
  • Toyota’s laps-led total of 5,757 was more than Chevrolet’s (2,377) and Ford’s (2,447) combined.
  • Truex and Busch led 40% of the laps run across the 36-race season.
  • Toyota won eight of the 10 playoff races.

In a sport in which small differences in vehicle aerodynamic shapes can translate to significant boosts in speed, Toyota Racing Development and its teams began the year with a sleek body and made it better as the months wore on. By August, Ford driver Brad Keselowski was complaining about Toyota’s supposed advantage, generating laughter from Toyota representatives and suggestions from the Camry camp that its competitors needed to work harder and talk less.


The new year brings change, although there is little reason to suggest that Toyota will give up its position of strength. Chevrolet enters the year with a new car — the Camaro — and high hopes that the vehicle’s sleek design and race-ready front end will equal significant improvement over 2017.

At a casual glance, Ford faces the steeper climb. Its Fusion was generally trailing in speed much of last year, and this season is likely to be its final hurrah as garage talk has the Mustang arriving as Ford’s Cup vehicle for 2019.

NASCAR rules on body design will have a new enforcement element — the Hawk-Eye camera/projection system. The Optical Scanning Station replaces the laser platform and is expected to ferret out the smallest imperfections in car bodies.

“If the new Hawk-Eye system is put in place and implemented for 2018 fully — not partially, fully — it would certainly level the playing field for Ford by enforcing the rules,” Keselowski said.

“It is inherent to the designs of the cars that some things weren’t able to be policed before that were designed into other cars that, with this system, it will eliminate it.”

That statement underlines Keselowski’s view that Toyota had advantages beyond the basic design of the Camry race car last year, a claim that, again, results in Toyota drivers — in particular Kyle Busch — suggesting that other teams show up for work earlier and leave later.

Erik Jones, who moved from one Toyota team (Furniture Row Racing) to another (Joe Gibbs Racing) in the offseason, said he expects the other manufacturers to be improved but that work on making the Camry better also has continued.

“Obviously, you’ve seen Chevrolet roll out a new product for this year,” Jones said. “We’ll have to see what that’s going to do. I think that’s going to put them in a position to catch up some. I’m sure they did their homework. You see, honestly, a lot of similarities between some of the stuff they’ve done with their car and ours.

“But I think us having a year under our belt with the new Camry is really going to make it that much better. It’s given us another offseason to develop on it.”

Ford driver Kevin Harvick said the Fusion improved during the season last year and added he looks for more gains in what should be the model’s final season.

“We may come out of the box great, but you don’t know until you get to the racetrack,” he said. “We worked through those issues last year. It took us a bit, but we might have to work at them again.”

Chevrolet driver Chris Buescher said expects gains despite the newness of the Camaro.

“It’s a body that looks way closer to what we were competing against last season and, at the same time, maintains its own identity and carries much of the characteristics of the actual production Camaro,” he said. “I think they accomplished everything they set out to do. Now it’s a matter of fine-tuning everything.”

Chevrolet official Pat Suey said he expects the Camaro to be competitive.

“It’s a better aero platform than we had before,” he said. “The teams have busted their humps building and testing and going to the wind tunnel. I’d like to think we’re not going to struggle that badly early (because of the new-car break-in period), but we’ll see.”

‘Grandpa’ Johnson determined to win 8th NASCAR championship

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Jimmie Johnson has never hitched a ride for an afternoon on a champion’s float that snakes down closed city streets.

The professional sports teams bask in the celebration of hundreds of thousands of fans screaming in adulation and spraying beer from sidewalks in a frenzy as confetti flies from the sky.

Johnson’s top reward for winning it all, a rally once at one of his sponsor’s stores a few miles away from his California hometown.

The NASCAR champion traditionally gets a party in victory lane at the season finale and throws a bash at the postseason banquet.

It’s all good fun, but even a seven-time champion wouldn’t mind a parade.

“I have to admit, that would be a nice add to the NASCAR champions schedule,” Johnson said. “It would be really cool.”

Johnson, a regular visitor to the White House when he reigned as NASCAR’s champ, had already initiated his own champion’s tradition a few years back.

Inspired by a chat with NASCAR official Mike Helton and the presidential tradition of leaving a handwritten letter to the successor, Johnson started a champion’s journal.

His first entry was a December 2011 letter to series champion Tony Stewart. Johnson followed championship seasons with notes for Kevin Harvick and 2017 champ Martin Truex Jr., and the keepsake is handed off at the banquet.

“There seems to be a thread when it comes back to me about me having more entries than anyone else,” Johnson said with a laugh outside his motorhome. “That kind of finds its way in each time I get it back.”

The journal is thick enough for quite a few more lines of teasing, well wishes and advice left to be composed. But the question looms for the 42-year-old Johnson, can he still fill the blank pages left as he comes off the worst season of his career?

Or, is the handwriting on the wall that a new crop of stars is ready to deny Johnson another title for as many years as he has left?

Believe that at your own risk.

“I signed up for three more years and I feel like I have the team and the ability to win all three of them,” Johnson said. “We won five in a row and I want to believe in three in a row.”

Johnson was never really a serious contender in 2017 to push past Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty and win his record eighth NASCAR crown. He won three races (but none after June), had a career-worst four top-fives and finished 10th in the standings.

There are about 30 other drivers in the Daytona 500 field who would love to craft that kind of season. At Hendrick Motorsports, long the class organization of NASCAR, Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus were considered underachievers with the No. 48 Chevrolet.

The Chevy ran slower in the second half of the season, and the team could never click and go on their traditional late-season surge; consider he won three of the final seven races in ’16 to clinch his seventh championship.

“That was the first time at Hendrick that I’ve had that happen,” Johnson said. “I couldn’t have asked anything more from anybody on the team. Everybody was all in. That’s where the frustration comes from.”

The struggles did nothing to deter the Hendrick lifer from signing a three-year contract extension that should keep him with the team through 2020. Johnson, whose 83 wins are tied for sixth on the NASCAR career Cup series list, was already the top dog at Hendrick.

Now, he’s the oldest dog on the Hendrick block, trying to teach his three 20-something teammates new tricks.

Daytona 500 pole-sitter Alex Bowman is 24. Cup rookie William Byron is 20. Chase Elliott is 22.

The trio’s combined Cup wins: 0.

But the nicknames for the two-time Daytona 500 winner are adding up.

“We call him Grandpa every now and then,” Bowman said.

“I would say Uncle Jimmie,” Elliott said.

For a stately veteran, Johnson can still show the young’uns a good time. Johnson, a ski junkie in Aspen, Colorado, hit the slopes with Elliott before they hit the town for a couple of nights.

“I even heard him say, ‘Wow this is what 40 looks like. Not bad,'” Johnson said. “I guess we can still have enough fun for a 22-year-old and make it cool.”

Johnson tweeted a photo of himself from behind the wheel of his family car with Bowman and Byron tagging along in car seats.

Johnson, though, is steadfast that he will do his part to shape the next generation of Hendrick stars into regular challengers for checkered flags. He invites teammates into the hauler for chats, talks game plans with the other crew chiefs, and the fitness freak has even suggested healthy diet tips.

“Jimmie loves that role, and I think these guys will tell you he’s there,” team owner Rick Hendrick said.

Bowman must be listening: He won the Daytona 500 pole.

Retired four-time champion Jeff Gordon is still a trusted adviser at HMS and Hendrick said he was having as much fun as he had in years with an injection of youth into the organization.

If 2017’s transition season led to stagnation across the lineup, Hendrick’s focus this season on returning the team to championship form has Johnson fired up.

“I’ve never seen him more committed than he is right now,” Hendrick said.

Johnson’s outside interests — including an ownership stake in a taco shop and a speakeasy; bike rides and marathons; and a blossoming interest in the NFL’s Carolina Panthers (“I’d love to have a shot at it. But I don’t think I can stretch the capital they need.”) — have never affected his race preparation each weekend.

Johnson’s championship crew chief Chad Knaus’ deal is up at the end of the season, though Hendrick said he would work on an extension. Knaus is connected with Johnson in much the same way as Pat Riley and Magic Johnson or Joe Torre and Derek Jeter. One calls the shots and the other leads them to glory — and Johnson wants to keep the tag team intact.

“I know the dog years he lives in and I’ve anticipated at some point there might be a separation,” he said. “I can’t see it in the near future, so I hope to stay together. I’ve told him that we started this thing together, let’s end this thing together.”

Johnson, who wrecked in Speedweeks exhibition Clash at Daytona, is determined to end it alone atop the championship count.

“He wants No. 8,” Hendrick said.

The one that would wipe away the doubt and stamp him as NASCAR’s greatest champion.


More AP Auto Racing:

NASCAR: Keselowski leads 1-2 Team Penske sweep at Daytona

This gallery contains 1 photo.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Brad Keselowski opened Speedweeks, before he turned a single lap, as the 7-1 favorite to win the Daytona 500.

Now that he has the first victory of the season, Keselowski is shaping up to be a safe bet.

Keselowski led a 1-2 Team Penske sweep Sunday in the exhibition The Clash at Daytona International Speedway. The race marks the opening of Speedweeks and is the first chance for teams to show their offseason work.

“I have never won anything here during Speedweeks and I feel like I have choked them away to be quite honest,” Keselowski said in victory lane. “You need one to break through. Hopefully, this is our breakthrough.”

Indeed, Keselowski is one of the best restrictor-plate racers in NASCAR. Although he’s a five-time winner at Talladega in Alabama, his lone victory at Daytona International Speedway was in the 2016 summer race.

When it comes to Speedweeks — The Clash, the Thursday twin qualifying races, and finally the season-opening Daytona 500 next Sunday — Keselowski always came up empty. His best finish in the Daytona 500 was third in 2013, and he finished fourth a year earlier. In his prior appearances in the all-star Clash, Keselowski finished inside the top-nine in four of his five races.

“It was a good day, a great start to Speedweeks, and now there’s two more to go,” Keselowski said.

The 17-car field is set by a draw and Keselowski started last. He had 75 laps to race his way to the front, which was easy enough for the three-car Penske contingent. Keselowski had the race in control as the Penske drivers closed in on the checkered flag.

He had a piece of garbage stuck to the front of his Ford, and that appeared to be his only challenge.

“I was worried about the (competitors) but the car was way overheating there at the end and I was more worried about it blowing up than anything else,” he said.

Ryan Blaney pulled out of line from behind Keselowski on the final lap in an attempt to beat his teammate, but he was left alone in the bottom lane and faded into traffic. Joey Logano didn’t have enough help to mount a challenge on Keselowski and had to settle for second.

“It is fun when you are up there running and you don’t know what is going to happen,” Logano said. “The suspense keeps building as you are running single-file: three to go, two to go, here comes the white flag — when do you make the move? Do you make a move? Sometimes you make and it is never the right thing.

“You are waiting to see what everyone else is going to do and you are thinking about the type of people they are and what the possible moves are they will make. Then as soon as we hit the white flag Blaney was able to go to the bottom, I had to stay on top because I would have gotten passed.”

Kyle Larson made contact with Jimmie Johnson on the final lap to trigger an accident that allowed Keselowski an easier route to victory lane.

Blaney faded to fourth, behind defending Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch, as Ford drivers took the top four spots. It was a nice rebound from qualifying earlier Sunday when the fastest Ford driver was Kevin Harvick at eighth.

In a race that means nothing beyond an early glimpse of who might contend in the Daytona 500, Blaney was disappointed with his finish.

“I thought we were in a good spot. Even though Brad is one of the best at doing this, I thought we had a good chance at it,” Blaney said. “I probably didn’t pull out at a very good time. I thought it was enough, but I got hung out.

“I should know better than that. I need to learn from that.”



Sunday from the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway (starting position in parentheses):

1. (17) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 75 laps.

2. (3) Joey Logano, Ford, 75.

3. (14) Kurt Busch, Ford, 75.

4. (15) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 75.

5. (1) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 75.

6. (2) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 75.

7. (13) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 75.

8. (4) Erik Jones, Toyota, 75.

9. (9) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 75.

10. (10) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 75.

11. (11) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 75.

12. (5) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 74.

13. (12) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 74.

14. (6) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 74.

15. (7) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 74.

16. (8) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, 73.

17. (16) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, accident, 43.


Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 169.626 mph.

Time of Race: 1 hour, 6 minutes, 19 seconds.

Margin of Victory: Under Caution.

Caution Flags: 3 for 8 laps.

Lead Changes: 11 among 7 drivers.

Lap Leaders: A.Dillon 1; D.Hamlin 2-9; C.Elliott 10-14; A.Dillon 15-16; C.Elliott 17-23; J.Logano 24; K.Larson 25; K.Harvick 26-27; B.Keselowski 28-33; C.Elliott 34-38; B.Keselowski 39-75; K.Larson 76

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): B.Keselowski, 2 times for 41 laps; C.Elliott, 3 times for 14 laps; D.Hamlin, 1 time for 7 laps; A.Dillon, 2 times for 1 lap; K.Harvick, 1 time for 1 lap; K.Larson, 2 times for 0 laps; J.Logano, 1 time for 0 laps.

NASCAR at Daytona 2018: Key information on Daytona 500 pole qualifying and The Clash

This gallery contains 1 photo.

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports)     —   The 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season kicks off Sunday with Daytona 500 pole qualifying followed by The Advance Auto Parts Clash exibition race. Here’s all the information you need to get ready today’s NASCAR events at Daytona International Speedway:


START TIME: Daytona International Speedway president Chip Wile will welcome fans to the track at 12:08 p.m. ET, followed by the singing of “God Bless America” by Gina Marie Incandela at 12:09 p.m. The green flag will drop for qualifying at 12:15 p.m.

TV/RADIO SCHEDULE: Fox will broadcast qualifying beginning at Noon ET. The Motor Racing Network (MRN) and Sirius/XM NASCAR Radio will call the event on the radio.

LIVE STREAMING: Fox is offering a live stream through its Fox Sports Go app.

FORMAT: Daytona 500 pole qualifying is a two-round, single-vehicle format on the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway. The driver with the top time at the end of the second round will earn the pole position for the 60th annual Daytona 500 on Feb. 18 (2:30 p.m. ET, Fox). The driver with the second-best time will start alongside on the front row. The remaining Daytona 500 lineup will be set by the Can-Am Duels on Thursday (7 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1).

DAYTONA 500: All-time pole winners and speeds 

WEATHER: The Weather Channel is calling for cloudy skies in Daytona Beach, Fla., with a high of 81 degrees and a 15% chance of rain.

LAST TIME: Chase Elliott won the Daytona 500 pole for the second straight year, edging his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earhardt Jr., who retired from Cup racing at the end of the 2017 season. Elliott will attempt to become the fourth Cup driver to win three consecutive Daytona 500 poles after Fireball Roberts (1961-63), his father Bill Elliott (1985-87) and Ken Schrader (1988-90).


START TIME: Melissa Trumble will perform the national anthem at 3:06 p.m. ET. Scott Borchetta, founder & CEO of Big Machine Label Group, will instruct drivers to start their engines at 3:12 p.m., followed by the green flag at 3:24 p.m.

RACE DISTANCE: The Advance Auto Parts Clash is a 75-lap exhibition race around the 2.5 mile Daytona International Speedway for a total of 187.5 miles. The event will be broken up into two stages with a competition caution at lap 25 separating the segments.

TV/RADIO: Fox Sports 1 will broadcast the race starting at 3 p.m ET and has a pre-race show beginning approximately 2 p.m., following qualifying. The Motor Racing Network (MRN) and Sirius/XM NASCAR Radio will call the event on the radio.

LIVE STREAMING: Fox is offering a live stream through its Fox Sports Go app.

WEATHER: The race will get started under cloudy skies that could give way to scattered thunderstorms, beginning around 5 p.m.

LAST TIME: After Denny Hamlin led 48 of 75 laps, Joey Logano took the lead on final lap and won by 1.120 seconds over Kyle Busch.


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Hendrick Motorsports rookie William Byron has posted the fastest lap in practice for the Daytona 500.

Byron turned a lap of 210.681 mph in Saturday afternoon’s practice at Daytona International Speedway. It was the fastest lap of two sessions.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was second fastest at 201.649 mph. Stenhouse won two plate races last season, at Talladega in the spring and at Daytona in July. Joey Logano was third and followed by Denny Hamlin.

David Ragan and Michael McDowell were the surprises of the first day of practice by posting the fifth and 10th fastest speeds. Qualifying for the first two spots in the Feb. 18 season-opening race is Sunday.

In Saturday’s first practice, Kyle Busch led all four Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas to a sweep of the speed chart. Busch’s best lap was 199.743, with no driver topping 200 mph in the early practice.


Jamie McMurray, No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing
Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Ford, Team Penske
Austin Dillon, No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing
Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Ford, Stewart-Haas Racing
Chase Elliott, No. 9 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing
Ryan Blaney, No. 12 Ford, Team Penske
Ricky Stenhouse Jr, No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing
Kyle Busch, No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing
Erik Jones, No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing
Joey Logano, No. 22 Ford, Team Penske
Ryan Newman, No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing
Kurt Busch, No. 41 Ford, Stewart-Haas Racing
Kyle Larson,No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing
Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
Martin Truex Jr, No. 78 Toyota, Furniture Row Racing
Kasey Kahne, No. 95 Chevrolet, Leavine Family Racing

NASCAR season begins with Truex reigning, series rebuilding

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Martin Truex Jr. has been all over the country during his brief reign as NASCAR’s newest champion.

Since winning his first Cup title in November, Truex has celebrated in Las Vegas, New York, Denver, Charlotte, Toronto and last week, Minneapolis, where he watched his beloved Philadelphia Eagles win the Super Bowl.

It was the final party for Truex, who goes back to work this week along with the rest of NASCAR to get ready for the 2018 season. The season-opening Daytona 500 is Feb. 18, and qualifying for “The Great American Race” is Sunday.

Truex will get back behind the wheel of his No. 78 Toyota at Daytona International Speedway and race in an exhibition all-star event Sunday. It will be the first look at the Colorado-based Furniture Row Racing team since it manhandled the competition most of last year.

Truex led nearly every statistical category in 2017, including notching a series-leading eight victories.

“I feel zero pressure about starting the new season,” Truex said. “We’re comfortable in what we are doing and having a lot of fun at the same time.”

Truex doesn’t have a teammate this year as Furniture Row moves back to a one-car operation. The change is one of the small ripples in a major wave that affected the NASCAR landscape.

Erik Jones, who had been on loan to Furniture Row, moved to Joe Gibbs Racing. To make room for Jones, JGR had to bounce Matt Kenseth from his ride even though the two-time Daytona 500 winner didn’t really want to retire.

Kenseth wasn’t alone: Danica Patrick lost her ride, making the Daytona 500 her final NASCAR race, and Kasey Kahne was forced out at Hendrick Motorsports and took a lesser job with Leavine Family Racing that created decent upheaval among the mid-pack racers.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. retired at the end of last season, but will still have a very heavy NASCAR presence. He will serve as grand marshal for the Daytona 500, will be part of NBC’s broadcast team and has been very clear he wants to be part of NASCAR’s future in a non-driving role.

The on-track attention will focus on NASCAR’s young drivers. Hendrick Motorsports hired Xfinity Series champion William Byron to replace Kahne and slid Alex Bowman into Earnhardt’s seat. Hendrick still has seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson in the stable as well as budding star Chase Elliott.

Elliott spent the past two years driving the No. 24 but is switching to the No. 9 — the number his Hall of Fame father donned for most of his career. Before Earnhardt Jr. locked down NASCAR’s most popular driver award, Bill Elliott owned the category. With Chase Elliott now in the No. 9 Chevrolet, fans may flock to his camp.

But Elliott is out to win races and not a popularity contest. Entering his third season in the Cup Series, he’s still seeking his first victory.

“There’s guys that people like and there’s guys that people don’t like. That’s what makes the sport, not just one person that everybody likes,” Elliott said.

“Not everybody liked Dale. That’s just the facts. Most people did. The majority did. But a lot of other people have other drivers, too. It’s not just about one person.”

Team Penske has expanded to three cars to add Ryan Blaney to its lineup, and he’s already a hit with fans. Close friend Bubba Wallace got a promotion to the Cup Series this season and will drive for Richard Petty Motorsports.

Wallace is the first black driver to win a national series NASCAR race since 1963. Jones and Daniel Suarez, the only Mexican driver in the Cup Series, make up the other half of Gibbs’ lineup.

The grid is getting younger and younger, and there’s been disagreement among veteran drivers about NASCAR’s push to spotlight the fresh faces.

The fans will be the big winners this year because the younger drivers are more accessible, and the veterans are aware of the need for increased fan engagement.

Wallace said newer drivers have to build brands and find sponsorship, unlike drivers of the past two decades, when fully-funded rides were far easier for no-name drivers to nab on the promise of future success.

“I have 13 (sponsored) races, so I have to put myself out there. I have to sell myself,” Wallace said.

Funding is an issue across all motorsports, and NASCAR’s teams are scratching their heads as they rework budgets.

Very few drivers have just one primary sponsor anymore; most split their season between dozens of brands in various funding roles, and some drivers have to bring their own money just to get a return call on a mediocre ride.

NASCAR is in its own sponsorship watch, too.

It’s the second season of Monster’s entitlement sponsorship of the Cup Series, but there’s been near silence from the company on its future in the sport.

Monster had a splashy debut race in which Monster-sponsored driver Kurt Busch won the Daytona 500, and that race alone was a massive return on its investment. Monster is back on both Busch’s car and as the series sponsor, but interest beyond 2018 is unknown.

NASCAR made a behind-the-scenes move before the season when Ben Kennedy, great-grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., stopped racing and became the company’s general manager of the Truck Series.

It’s an obvious entry point for Kennedy to join the family business, and a sign that NASCAR chairman Brian France and ISC head Lesa France Kennedy are aware that ownership may be in need of a youth movement as well.

“Ben will draw upon his years of experience across NASCAR’s grassroots and national series,” NASCAR president Brent Dewar said.

“With promising young drivers and experienced veterans battling it out in close, side-by-side racing, Ben truly understands from experience that every lap matters and we are excited about his future leadership in this important national series.”


More AP auto racing:

NASCAR: Stenhouse can make a name for himself post-Patrick

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is a two-time Xfinity Series champion who is coming off the best season of his NASCAR career. He won his first two Cup races last year and made the playoffs for the first time in five seasons of racing in NASCAR’s big leagues.

Building on that momentum will be his goal this year, and likely what he focuses on when he faces reporters during NASCAR’s annual preseason media tour. What Stenhouse probably won’t talk about is his breakup with Danica Patrick, though he will certainly be asked.

Why should anyone ask Stenhouse about his ex-girlfriend? The circumstances are unique and unconventional. He and Patrick were professional athletes from the same sport who competed against each other weekly while living together as a couple both at home and at the race track.

They dated for five years, the entire time Stenhouse has raced in the Cup Series, and being her boyfriend became part of his identity. So, yes, there is interest in hearing from Stenhouse about the split.

However, Stenhouse owes no one any answers, and likely won’t spill any tea about their late November breakup. Stenhouse very rarely talked about the relationship publicly, and it was Patrick and her “Danica Machine” marketing team that drove the bus for the couple. She was the one who announced they were dating, telling The Associated Press in early 2013, “I have a boyfriend, his name is Richard.”

She tearfully thanked Stenhouse, who watched from the back of the room, as she announced she’ll retire from racing after two events this year last November at Homestead-Miami Speedway. About two weeks later, the couple had split. Patrick said she is now dating Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and has been the most relevant racer the entire offseason through a promotional blitz that has kept her in the headlines.

Stenhouse, meanwhile, has said nothing. It’s the right course of action.

Stenhouse started to flourish on the race track last season and, if he chooses, can be an important part of NASCAR’s future. His victories at Talladega and Daytona last year absolutely had a lot to do with the horsepower Doug Yates put in Stenhouse’s Ford at those tracks, but he still showed he has the ability to win.

Stenhouse had done very little to shine on the race track prior to last season, but much of his Cup career has been spent with a rebuilding Roush Fenway Racing team. His numbers from last season are all career bests, and while they aren’t spectacular statistics, he still showed that RFR and the No. 17 team are making progress.

The next steps will require Stenhouse to be a leader at Roush, with his race team and the organization. Stenhouse has an opportunity to become something much bigger than Patrick’s plus one. He was 25 when they began dating, didn’t go to college and most of his learning was done in race cars.

When he first started dating Patrick, she was already one of the most famous athletes in the world and had been married and divorced. Her life became his life — she got him to cut his mullet, dress a little better, explore big cities and take his fitness seriously, improvements that landed him two spots on “American Ninja Warrior.”

Stenhouse is now 30 and has a chance to show the world who he is as a racer and a person. His passions are dirt racing, the golf league comprised of NASCAR personalities and Ole Miss football. When he’s not racing, he probably wants to be racing.

This is now Stenhouse’s time. He gets to not only reset, but also rebuild who he wants to be in the world of NASCAR and with his race team.

Those are the kind of things Stenhouse is likely going to focus on in the buildup to next month’s season-opening Daytona 500. He won at Daytona at July, so there’s no reason to think he won’t be a contender in the 500, and a victory there would be the biggest moment of his career.

What Stenhouse has ahead of him is now what’s important. He alone gets to dictate what happens next.


CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Danica Patrick has found a ride for the Daytona 500 that helps complete the closing of her racing career in appropriate fashion.

Patrick will drive for Premium Motorsports in next month’s Daytona 500, her final NASCAR race. She also plans to race in the Indianapolis 500 in May.

The one-race deal for next month’s NASCAR showcase will put Patrick in the seat of the No. 7 GoDaddy Chevrolet, the same number she drove when she entered stock-car racing in 2010.

Her former crew chief, Tony Eury Jr., will return to Patrick’s pit box for her finale.

“I keep saying, ‘I couldn’t have written a better story about how this would all fall into place’ … Going with the flow is working out beautifully,” said Patrick. “I’ll be back in GoDaddy green, driving the No. 7 Chevrolet with Tony Jr. in my ear again. It all makes my last NASCAR race just that much sweeter.”

Premium Motorsports recently bought assets from Tommy Baldwin Racing. The No. 7 car will use Premium’s charter (the No. 15 car last year) to have a guaranteed spot in the Feb. 18 season opening event at Daytona International Speedway. The team will receive engineering support from Richard Childress Racing.

GoDaddy reunited with Patrick last week, agreeing to sponsor her cars for the final two races of her career. She announced her plans to race Daytona and Indy before she had rides, and a deal with Chip Ganassi Racing for both races never happened. She called GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons in late December for help making the “Danica Double” happen.

The sponsorship from GoDaddy gives her additional funds to find seats in both races, and the Indy team still has to be completed. Many IndyCar owners have said they can’t or won’t field Patrick in the Indy 500, the race that made her famous, but anything can change now that she’s secured sponsorship.

A reasonable candidate at this stage would be Ed Carpenter Racing, which always fields competitive cars at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The team is in partly owned by Tony George, the head of the family that owns the speedway, and ensuring Patrick is in the race helps with the success of the Indy 500.

At Daytona, almost the entire field has the opportunity to be in contention for the victory. The team Patrick paired with wasn’t as important as getting a strong engine and solid technical support.

Premium is hardly a top-shelf team, but Daytona is a place where that won’t hurt Patrick. Premium ranked 34th in owner standings in 2017, but Michael Waltrip drove its Daytona 500 car to an eighth-place finish. Patrick will be also aided by her previous experience with Eury, who was her crew chief when she made her initial move from IndyCar to NASCAR.

“It wouldn’t be just any opportunity that could coax me back to the pit box,” Eury said. “Working with Danica and GoDaddy again at Daytona is going to be fun. Danica and I have shared success before in Daytona, and she has a lot more experience under her belt now, so I look forward to seeing what we can achieve during Speedweeks.”

Patrick has not shown any signs of panic about putting together her two final races, and credited the “positive vibes” that have helped move the project along.

“I’m feeling good energy with the sponsor and team we’ve put together for Daytona,” she said. “I’m convinced that good vibes translate into performance, and I’m definitely feeling the good energy with this sponsor and team.”


More AP auto racing:

NASCAR: Robert Yates posthumously inducted into NASCAR Hall of Fame

This gallery contains 1 photo.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Robert Yates lived long enough to hear his name announced as a NASCAR Hall of Famer.

Although he lost his battle with liver cancer five months after he was voted into the Hall, Yates was able to write his own acceptance speech for Friday night’s ceremony. It was read by Dale Jarrett, a Hall of Famer who won the 1999 championship driving for Yates.

“When I started in racing, this was not the goal,” Jarrett read from Yates’ speech. “All I wanted to do throughout my career was win races. I would always say, I don’t race for the money, I race to win. For me, that’s what it’s always been about, but to be part of this year’s induction class is a true honor.”

Yates was a championship-winning car owner and engine builder who learned from Waddell Wilson and Junior Johnson. He built the powerplants for Bobby Allison’s 1983 Cup championship team, and the engines used when Richard Petty drove to his 199th and 200th victories — his last — of Petty’s career.

As a car owner, Yates drivers won 57 races that included three Daytona 500s. A year ago, as he was in his losing fight with cancer, Kurt Busch drove a Yates-powered car to the Daytona 500 title.

Also inducted Friday night were pioneering crew chief Ray Evernham, Red Byron, NASCAR’s first champion, four-time Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday Jr. and Ken Squier, the first broadcaster to make the Hall.

Evernham led Jeff Gordon to three of his four championships and changed the sport in his approach to preparing race cars. He pushed limits through innovation, engineering and formed Gordon’s “Rainbow Warriors” pit crew that was the best in NASCAR.

“It was 1995, we win the championship in Atlanta, it wasn’t the best of days, we didn’t perform very well,” Gordon recalled. “But we did win the championship. And to tell you what kind of person Ray Evernham was, I think he enjoyed that championship for maybe a split-second before he started thinking about what was wrong with that race car, and he showed up at the shop the next morning, the day after we won that championship, to figure out what was wrong with that race car. And he found it.”

Evernham eventually transitioned into car ownership and spearheaded Dodge Motorsports’ return to NASCAR in 2001. Hall of Famer Bill Elliott earned Evernham Motorsports its inaugural victory that season, and Evernham collected 15 wins as a team owner.

Evernham was inducted by Gordon and his son, Ray J.

“A young boy playing with toy cars in a stone driveway at the Jersey Shore could only dream of a moment like this,” said Evernham, who thanked mentor and former boss Rick Hendrick by telling the Hall of Fame car owner, “you saw more in me than I saw in myself. You believed in me. I was a young, unorthodox crew chief.”

Hornaday’s 51 victories are a Truck Series record, as well as his championships. He was introduced Friday night by Kevin Harvick, one of the many drivers who Hornaday helped make it in NASCAR.

Hornaday frequently allowed young racers to live on his living room couch when they relocated to North Carolina. Among them are Harvick and Jimmie Johnson, who have eight Cup titles between them. Harvick eventually repaid the favor by fielding a Truck Series team that gave Hornaday two of his titles.

He revealed he’d spent two sleepless nights leading into Friday trying to prepare a speech.

“Sitting up here trying to think what you’re going to say to anybody, and it’s the toughest thing you’d ever say,” he said. “Everybody would just say ‘Just be yourself, it’s easy.’ It’s the frigging Hall of Fame, guys, it’s the toughest thing you’ve ever done.”

Byron was NASCAR’s first crowned champion in the Modified Series and in 1948 the Strictly Stock Series, which is now called the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. His induction was presented by current NASCAR champion Martin Truex Jr.

Byron served in the United States Army Air Corps in the Pacific during World War II. He suffered a severe injury to his left leg while flying in a combat mission and later had to wear a specially created steel leg brace while racing.

“He set the foundation for the rare few who capture the most coveted prize in motorsports, a championship at NASCAR’s highest level,” Truex said. “This driver had admirable talent but possessed even greater toughness and courage. He will always be the first, he will always be a pioneer, and now he’ll always be a NASCAR Hall of Famer.”

Squier worked NASCAR’s flag-to-flag network television debut in the 1979 Daytona 500. He was introduced by Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is transitioning from racing into broadcasting, and inducted by Vermont Gov. Phil Scott.

Squier is the co-founder of the Motor Racing Network and a longtime voice of NASCAR. He had co-founded MRN in 1969 before moving to television. He’s also credited with helping develop the sport’s first “in-car camera” that is still used in telecasts today.

“The heroes in this room who earned their way through tenacity, courage, and their ability to accomplish something they believe worthwhile, vital, and now they’ve added a storyteller,” Squier said. “And believe me, I can tell some stories. Most of them aren’t true, so don’t be concerned.”


More AP Auto Racing:

Darrell Wallace Jr. embraces legacy of Wendell Scott, NASCAR’s first black driver

This gallery contains 1 photo.

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports)   —   WELCOME, N.C. — There are two ways to look at Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.’s upcoming season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

One, he’s the next in line — and one of the youngest drivers — to attempt to lift Richard Petty Motorsports from mediocrity into the fast lane.

Two, he’s the first African-American driver in 45 years to attempt to run the full Cup Series schedule. Therefore, he will be the first black driver to have a significant shot at winning a Cup race since the late Wendell Scott became the only one to visit a Cup victory lane in December 1963.

Both challenges are formidable, but Wallace, 24, seems ready. He has won six races in the Camping World Truck Series, scored six top fives in Xfinity Series racing and performed well in four Cup races last year when he substituted at RPM for injured driver Aric Almirola. That “tryout” led Petty to put Wallace in the No. 43 this year after Almirola left the team to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing.

Following in the tire tracks of Scott, who raced against harsh discrimination in the 1960s, will earn Wallace a string of publicity as he attempts to put RPM’s cars (newly minted Camaros as the team switches from Fords) in the Cup playoffs. Even as he concentrates on lap times, pit stops and passing points, he knows the social-history aspect of this particular journey will be the dominant theme for many.

“For sure, I’m carrying that banner,” Wallace said. “What’s funny is that Wendell Junior (Scott’s son) called recently and left me a voicemail. He said that I shouldn’t feel like I need to carry the pressure of his dad and the Scott legacy, just to go out there and ‘do me.’

“A small part carries him with me, but I don’t put that in the forefront. For me, it’s just to go out and get through practice, qualifying and the race. If we end up with a top five, then, hey, it’s ‘the first African-American to do this’ or ‘the first African-American to do that.’ I don’t really look at that stuff, but you can sit back after the race and say, ‘Damn, that was pretty cool.’ ”

Wallace got a hint of what’s to come this year in his four races last season. He made his first start subbing for Almirola at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway in early June, and his arrival in the Cup Series sparked a wave of media attention.

Crew chief Drew Blickensderfer remembers.

“When they told us last year that Bubba was going to drive the car, it was like, ‘OK, he’s that guy who wrecks every once in a while in the Xfinity Series and has won a couple of Truck races,’ ” Blickensderfer said. “We know who he is, and he seems like a pretty cool kid.

“Then when we showed up at Pocono, we realized what it was all about. It kind of gave you goosebumps to think about how special it was. We saw all the hoopla and everything that was going on around it, and we thought, this is something special and a little different than just the kid who’s going to drive a race car.”

Wallace keeps things in balance, though, Blickensderfer said.

“Bubba — he just handles it,” he said. “He does it remarkably well for a kid his age. He takes it in and goes about his business much better than most people would. When we get ready to fire engines for the Daytona 500, we’re going to be like he’s doing something really cool here. Until then, it’s kind of business as usual, and it’s just some kid driving a race car.”

Wallace, a native of Mobile, Ala., embraces the Scott legacy and his spotlighted role. He has heard the N-word more than a few times during his rise in the sport, and social media channels often pulse with criticism about his place in racing. A Wisconsin high school golf coach was fired in November for posting disparaging tweets about Wallace.

“I’ve accepted that it’s always going to be talked about no matter what I do,” Wallace said. “I’ll be the first African-American to take a piss in the Cup garage. Everything I do is a first. It’s going to be there. I’ve accepted it.

“It’s the fans who get so fired up over it. It’s like, ‘Why do we have to mention it?’ Because no one is there. So it’s going to be mentioned. It has to be mentioned, so just sit back, relax and enjoy the show.”


NASCAR start times, TV networks for 2018 Cup season

Unlike 2017, no race will start before 2 p.m. ET next season, though a number of races that had later start times this year will see a slightly earlier start.

Pocono Raceway and Michigan International Speedway had 3 p.m. ET start times for both races this season, but in 2018, their first race will start at 2 and their second at 2:30. Similarly, races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Chicagoland Speedway, Watkins Glen International and Indianapolis Motor Speedway will also see slightly earlier start times next season.

Some alterations to the calendar were announced earlier this year. New Hampshire will host only one race in 2018 as Las Vegas Motor Speedway picks up an additional race instead. The second Las Vegas race will kick off the 2018 playoffs on Sept. 16.

The second race at Richmond Raceway, which had traditonally been the final regular-season race, now becomes the second race of the playoffs and will be the only night race in the 10-race postseason.

Charlotte Motor Speedway, which will hold its playoff race on a combination of the track’s oval and road course, becomes the first elimination race of the playoffs, while the second Dover International Speedway date becomes the second-round opener.

Daytona 500 qualifying kicks off the 2018 calendar on Feb. 11, with The Clash exhibition immediately following. The Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway will close out the 26-race regular season on Sept. 9.

Here is the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule, with date, location, time, TV and radio network. All times p.m. and Eastern unless noted:

*-Exhibition race. FS1=Fox Sports 1; NBCSN=NBC Sports Network; MRN=Motor Racing Network; PRN=Performance Racing Network; IMS=Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Feb. 11: Daytona 500 Qualifying at Daytona International Speedway, Noon, Fox (MRN)

Feb. 11:*The Clash at Daytona International Speedway, 3, FS1 (MRN)

Feb. 15: The Duel at Daytona International Speedway, 7, FS1 (MRN)

Feb. 18: Daytona 500, 2:30, Fox (MRN)

Feb. 25: Atlanta Motor Speedway, 2, Fox (PRN)

March 4: Las Vegas Motor Speedway, 3:30, Fox (PRN)

March 11: Phoenix Raceway, 3:30, Fox (MRN)

March 18: Auto Club Speedway, 3:30, Fox (MRN)

March 25: Martinsville Speedway, 2, FS1 (MRN)

April 8: Texas Motor Speedway, 2, FS1 (PRN)

April 15: Bristol Motor Speedway, 2, Fox, (PRN)

April 21: Richmond Raceway, 6:30, Fox? (MRN)

April 29: Talladega Superspeedway, 2, Fox (MRN)

May 6: Dover International Speedway, 2, FS1 (MRN)

May 12: Kansas Speedway, 8, FS1 (MRN)

May 19: *All-Star Open at Charlotte Motor Speedway, 6, FS1 (MRN)

May 19: *All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, 8, FS1 (MRN)

May 27: Charlotte Motor Speedway, 6, Fox (PRN)

June 3: Pocono Raceway, 2, FS1 (MRN)

June 10: Michigan International Speedway, 2, Fox (MRN)

June 24: Sonoma Raceway, 3, FS1 (PRN)

July 1: Chicagoland Speedway, 2:30, NBCSN (MRN)

July 7: Daytona International Speedway, 7, NBC (PRN)

July 14: Kentucky Speedway, 7:30, NBCSN (PRN)

July 22: New Hampshire Motor Speedway, 2, NBCSN (PRN)

July 29: Pocono Raceway, 2:30, NBCSN (MRN)

Aug. 5: Watkins Glen International , 2:30, NBC (MRN)

Aug. 12: Michigan International Speedway, 2:30, NBCSN (MRN)

Aug. 18: Bristol Motor Speedway, 7:30, NBCSN (PRN)

Sept. 2: Darlington Raceway, 6, NBCSN (MRN)

Sept. 9: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 2, NBCSN (IMS)


Sept. 16: Las Vegas Motor Speedway,  3, NBCSN (PRN)

Sept. 22: Richmond Raceway, 7:30,NBCSN (MRN)

Sept. 30: Charlotte Motor Speedway, 2, NBC, (PRN)

Oct. 7: Dover International Speedway,  2, NBCSN (MRN)

Oct. 14: Talladega Superspeedway, 2, NBC (MRN)

Oct. 21: Kansas Speedway, 2, NBC (MRN)

Oct. 28: Martinsville Speedway, 2:30, NBCSN (MRN)

Nov. 4: Texas Motor Speedway, 3, NBCSN (PRN)

Nov. 11: Phoenix Raceway, 2:30, NBC (MRN)

Nov. 18: Homestead Miami Speedway, 2:30, NBC (MRN)

NASCAR: Earnhardt long ago outgrew his father’s shadow

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — He was so shy, so skinny, not yet somebody.

It was around 1997 and Dale Earnhardt Jr. was testing at Talladega Superspeedway, wearing an all-white firesuit. Bobby Labonte was the star at the Alabama test that day, and all the media crammed into Talladega’s wood-paneled press room to talk to Labonte.

I’m not sure anyone talked to the Earnhardt kid that day. Why would they? Nobody had any idea what he was about to become.

In that moment at Talladega, he was just the son of NASCAR’s greatest hero, a rich kid getting a chance to shake down a car because of his last name. Earnhardt hadn’t accomplished anything and NASCAR had no idea it had a future rock star in its midst.

Earnhardt, it turned out, was not just a kid getting a break because his father owned Dale Earnhardt Inc. The Hall of Famer was tough on his kid, made him work hard, kept him honest — two traits Junior has carried with him all the way until now, his final week as a full-time driver in NASCAR. Retirement awaits, and so does fatherhood.

Earnhardt started small, worked his way through the Xfinity Series and became a two-time champion. Then Earnhardt graduated to the Cup level in 2000 in a seat owned by his dad with splashy sponsor Budweiser and an expensive marketing campaign. Earnhardt Jr. dyed his hair blonde, threw raucous parties at the Club E he’d built on his property, and Bud got him into the hottest parties and sporting events all over the country.

Behind the wheel, he was a winner. The DEI cars were good back then, and Earnhardt made it to victory lane in just his seventh start. As his fan base began to grow, he became a cult hero to the NASCAR fan and recognizable to the casual sports observer.

When his father was killed in an accident on the last lap of the Daytona 500 the next season, Earnhardt’s world changed in every way. Now the spotlight was on him all the time, and without his father around to cast a disapproving glare, Earnhardt struggled. He was still shy, still had some insecurities, and wasn’t comfortable being the guy forced to carry his father’s legacy.

Fast-forward to 2007 and Earnhardt and his sister, Kelley, were in a strained relationship with their father’s wife. They didn’t like the direction Teresa Earnhardt was taking DEI, and he wanted 51 percent control of the team in his contract negotiations. Teresa Earnhardt had also publicly questioned her stepson’s commitment, and Earnhardt painfully admitted in a preseason news conference that their relationship “ain’t a bed of roses.”

Four months later, he’d made his decision to leave DEI. Earnhardt took people who had covered the bulk of his career into his office and explained to them, personally, why he was leaving. He feared what people would think of him, and he’d been raised to be honest and behave professionally. Earnhardt didn’t want anyone to think he was abandoning his father’s team.

Off to Hendrick Motorsports he went, and that wasn’t what anyone hoped. Racing wasn’t fun, he was no longer getting along with the family members who had always been part of his career and his performance was awful.

It was Steve Letarte who took over as crew chief and rebuilt Earnhardt. He held him accountable with a strict schedule, demanded Earnhardt be present for debriefs and team meetings, and he coached him back into a winning race car driver.

Earnhardt will retire after Sunday’s season finale having never won a championship. He never filled his father’s shoes on the race track. But he won two Daytona 500s and built an army of loyal fans.

He also settled into his own skin, found his voice on social media and became the social conscience of NASCAR simply by stating his beliefs and being honest, as his father had taught him to be.

He took NASCAR to events and appearances the sport had never accessed before, and he settled into a life with wife Amy, who brought him out his shell. She was by his side during a grueling recovery last season from concussions, and the couple will become first-time parents next year.

Earnhardt is nothing at all like the kid trying to wedge his way into NASCAR two decades ago. But in many ways, the money and the fame and lifetime of experiences hasn’t changed him at all.

All the adulation and the accomplishments are because of who Earnhardt is, not because of his lineage.

“I read something on Twitter the other day about my brother, he said he has always lived under Dad’s shadow and that is not such a bad thing,” Earnhardt said. “I don’t know that you are always out from under it, but it didn’t bother me, but I was always compared to him and compared to his success, the person he was, people either liked I was different or didn’t like that I was different and wanted me to be just like him or whatever.

“It was often in conversation or part of the topic of conversation in articles and so forth. I really don’t know when that started to happen.”

And now, with one week left in his retirement tour, the emotions and the reality are very real for Earnhardt. Although he has three cars running for the Xfinity Series championship on Saturday, a future career in broadcasting with NBC, a baby girl on the way, there’s something missing this week.

“I just miss him so bad and wish he were here today to see all this happening,” Earnhardt said of his father.


Jenna Fryer began covering NASCAR in 1997 at Talladega Superspeedway, before Dale Earnhardt Jr. made his Cup debut. She can be followed via


More AP auto racing coverage:


NASCAR: Ryan Blaney wins pole in critical playoff race at Phoenix / Truck Finals

AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Ryan Blaney probably needs to win at Phoenix Raceway to earn a shot at NASCAR’s championship.

He’ll at least start up front Sunday in his bid to put The Wood Brothers in the final four contenders next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Blaney won the pole in his final chance to qualify for NASCAR’s championship race with a lap at 137.942 mph around Phoenix in a Ford.

It gave Blaney the top starting spot for Sunday’s penultimate race of the playoffs. There is one slot available in the field of four that will race for the championship next week, and Blaney is one of five drivers chasing that spot.

“Our mindset coming into this weekend was really trying to win the race and sitting on the pole. My mindset doesn’t change,” Blaney said. “I still want to go try to win the race, so that’s the mindset we’ve had all week and hopefully we can keep that and I think that’s our goal.”

Blaney bested Denny Hamlin in Friday qualifying. Both playoff drivers need to win to grab the final spot in the finale, and Hamlin waited until the third and final round to cut a corner on the track in an attempt to better his time.

Hamlin’s lap at 137.936 briefly put his Toyota on top of the leaderboard, but Blaney bumped him moments later.

Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. have already locked up spots in the finale. Busch and Truex are in Toyotas, while Harvick drives a Ford. Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott are the only two Chevrolet drivers with a shot to make the finale.

Kyle Larson, who has been eliminated from the playoffs, qualified third.

He was followed in qualifying by playoff drivers Elliott, Truex and Harvick.

With Elliott due to start right behind Hamlin, there was brief speculation that Elliott could seek revenge from an incident two weeks ago at Martinsville. Elliott was on his way to a victory that would have clinched his spot in the finale when Hamlin wrecked him out of the lead.

Hamlin said the two raced professionally last weekend at Texas and he had no concern for Sunday.

“Was I worried last weekend? No and I’m not worried this weekend,” he said. “Everyone up front is professionals and we all have one job to do and that’s to win. Our objective is the same objective as his — it’s to go out there and win on Sunday. You really can’t worry about other guys. If you’ve got that in front of you and you’re thinking about that, your chances of winning are slim to none.”

Busch was eighth and Johnson qualified 12th, but felt his Chevy was far faster.

“We made it to the third round and I just got really aggressive in that round trying to run a flat,” he said. “Just got in the corner too hard on both ends and I kind of pushed up. So, could have been better but I don’t know if we could have had the pole. I think we would have only been about fifth or sixth if I had got it right.”

Brad Keselowski was the lowest-qualifying playoff driver at 16th. He starts Sunday’s race with an advantage in the point standings over the other four drivers trying to make it into the championship, but he has very little breathing room and a victory is his only sure bet to make the finale.

But, Keselowski found solace in the speed that teammate Blaney showed, and is hopeful he’s got something for Sunday.

“It’s not where we want to start, but when the track gets hot and slick we seem to run better here,” Keselowski said. “My teammate Blaney is real fast, so I know we’re all real similar and we’ll have a little confidence in that.”


NASCAR TRUCK SERIES: Sauter wins and Cindric moves on to final amid controversy

AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP) — NASCAR’s Truck Series has itself a spicy championship fight, with teenager Austin Cindric smack in the middle of the controversy, after a heated Friday night race at Phoenix Raceway.

The race was stopped three times in the final 20 laps for accident cleanup, including the mess created when Kyle Busch Motorsports teammates Noah Gragson and Christopher Bell wrecked each other racing for the lead. The night went so long, a football game between Stanford and Washington had to be moved to another network, so defending series champion Johnny’s Sauter victory celebration was abbreviated.

Christopher Bell, Matt Crafton and Cindric advanced to next week’s championship race — Sauter had already qualified — with their finishes at Phoenix. Cindric’s spot was contested because he wrecked the competition to earn his berth in next Friday night’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Bell clinched his on points by winning the first two stages. Then two-time series champion Crafton locked up his spot on points in the second stage at Phoenix.

With Sauter already in, it put just one slot in the championship on the line during the final stage at Phoenix. That turned it into a race between Ben Rhodes and Cindric for the right to race for the championship.

A caution sent both drivers to pit road with 25 laps remaining, and Cindric was slowed by a second consecutive troubled stop. But it was a questionable call to pit in hindsight because Rhodes also lost track position when other drivers didn’t follow him.

Rhodes had been fourth but restarted ninth. Cindric was 12th with 21 laps remaining and the season on the line.

That’s where the race for the final championship spot all but ended. John Hunter Nemechek made a late bid to bump Cindric, but had to win the race to advance and wound up second.

But it was that restart with 21 laps remaining that set the championship field. As Rhodes and Cindric battled for position on the restart, the two trucks made contact that led to a race-ending wreck for Rhodes. Cindric went low on the restart to gain momentum for a potential pass and Rhodes briefly dipped down in an apparent attempt to block him.

The two made contact that caused Rhodes to spin

“I was there and he blocked, that’s his fault,” Cindric radioed.

Rhodes’ crew chief saw it far differently and felt Cindric used a dirty move to collect his spot at Homestead. Eddie Troconis also warned that Cindric will have a rough race ahead of him in the championship.

The race was stopped and Cindric said during the pause it was a racing incident.

“I had a good run, Ben went to block, and I was there,” Cindric said. “I can’t get pushed around because that was my chance and he was better than we were all night. Nothing intentional there. I tried to get a run and held my ground.”

Rhodes called it a “desperation” move by Cindric and said he was driving “over his head.”

“There’s definitely a time and place to go three-wide, that wasn’t it,” said Rhodes. “He put me in a bad place. I am not sure that was the right move on his part.”

Crafton was also in the wreck and will race against Cindric next week for the title. He sided with Rhodes.

“I told Ben, the 19 (Cindric) better not finish Homestead,” Crafton said in encouraging Rhodes to retaliate next week when Cindric has so much on the line.

Brad Keselowski owns the truck that Cindric is racing, and is shutting down the team after next week’s race. He tweeted after watching a replay during the red flag that he didn’t believe either driver was at fault.

“Tough deal. I’m not sure either driver could or should have done anything different,” he wrote. “Sometimes things happen when you go fast for a living …”



Friday’s qualifying; race Sunday

At Phoenix RacewayAvondale, Ariz.

(Car number in parentheses)

1. (21) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 137.942 mph.

2. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 137.936.

3. (42) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 137.926.

4. (24) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 137.641.

5. (78) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 137.583.

6. (4) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 137.247.

7. (20) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 137.190.

8. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 137.075.

9. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 136.711.

10. (19) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 136.467.

11. (77) Erik Jones, Toyota, 136.374.

12. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 136.224.

13. (1) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 136.841.

14. (88) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 136.322.

15. (41) Kurt Busch, Ford, 136.307.

16. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 136.302.

17. (5) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 136.281.

18. (31) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 136.044.

19. (27) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 135.864.

20. (14) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 135.670.

21. (3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 135.588.

22. (43) Aric Almirola, Ford, 135.308.

23. (47) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 135.227.

24. (10) Danica Patrick, Ford, 134.862.

25. (6) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 135.634.

26. (38) David Ragan, Ford, 135.354.

27. (17) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 135.318.

28. (95) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 135.293.

29. (13) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 135.014.

30. (32) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 134.847.

31. (37) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 134.695.

32. (34) Landon Cassill, Ford, 134.519.

33. (23) Corey LaJoie, Toyota, 133.551.

34. (72) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 133.546.

35. (7) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 133.482.

36. (66) David Starr, Toyota, 132.558.

37. (15) DJ Kennington, Chevrolet, 132.251.

38. (33) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 131.617.

39. (51) Kyle Weatherman, Chevrolet, 127.042.

40. (00) Derrike Cope, Chevrolet, 0.000.

NASCAR: Chevy needs a win Sunday at Phoenix to join Toyota and Ford in Final Four

This gallery contains 1 photo.

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports)   —    Chevrolet drivers have won seven of the last eight Monster Energy NASCAR Cup races at Phoenix Raceway.

Chevy teams will need help from that history in Sunday’s Can-Am 500 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC) as five drivers wrestle for the last spot in the Final Four at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida.

Toyota drivers Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. have qualified for the Homestead championship run along with Ford’s Kevin Harvick. Chevrolet’s only remaining playoff drivers are Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson, and they are at the bottom of the playoff standings entering Sunday’s 312-mile race, the final event in the third round.

Elliott trails points leader Truex by 49 points, and Johnson, clinging to hope that he can win a record eighth championship, is 51 points behind. Both Chevrolet drivers almost certainly need a win to advance to the Homestead playoff group.

“I know we’re building a better race car and taking a few new ideas to Phoenix, and we’ll go there and fight as hard as we can,” Johnson said. “That is one thing this team will never do — give up.”


Johnson has won four times at Phoenix, but his playoff experience this year has been very non-Johnson-like. He was a tepid 27th last week at Texas.

Elliott, still seeking his first series win after a string of good runs but no victory lanes, has finishes of eighth, ninth and 12th at Phoenix.

 Ford driver Brad Keselowski has a leg up in the competition for the fourth playoff spot. He is 19 points above fifth-place driver Denny Hamlin. Keselowski has not won at Phoenix but has eight top-10 finishes in 16 races.

A win by any of the playoff drivers advances that driver to the Homestead finale. If someone other than a playoff candidate wins, the leader in points advances. That is likely to be Keselowski unless the finish order is seriously scrambled.

Busch and Harvick earned Homestead spots with race wins, while Truex, the dominant driver much of the season, locked in a slot via points.

Keselowski won the Cup championship in 2012 before the Final Four format was introduced. Busch and Harvick also have won titles.

Ryan Blaney, in his second season driving for the Wood Brothers, is 22 points behind Truex.

Harvick’s Homestead spot is locked in, but he is expected to be a threat at Phoenix regardless. He owns eight wins at the track.

Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series playoff drivers also will race for Final Four positions at Phoenix this weekend. All three NASCAR national series titles will be determined at Homestead.

"PhatzRadio - A New view from the News Room"



Weekly Music / Sports Talk Schedule
NBA Unplugged 1:00PM
Audibly Offensive 2:02PM
The War Room 3:01PM
Smooth Jazz 5:11PM
PopSports Sports Radio Tues.AM
The Broad Street Line Wed.AM
After Further Review Wed.AM
HoopGirlz Radio Thur.AM
Gaffer & Hooligan Soccer Fri.AM