Daytona 500

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Jeff Gordon calls NASCAR Hall of Fame selection ‘surreal’

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Jeff Gordon didn’t give much thought to NASCAR while racing sprint cars in Indiana as a teenager.

He was too busy trying to get into open wheel racing.

But when Gordon’s career stalled, he headed South to try his hand at stock car racing and went on to win 93 Cup races — third on the career list — and four championships while helping NASCAR move from a predominantly regional sport to the mainstream in the 1990s. Gordon was honored for his career achievements Wednesday when he was selected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Gordon said it all feels “surreal,” considering he never thought this was the direction his life would take.

“I came down to North Carolina hoping and dreaming of something, but I didn’t know much about NASCAR racing,” Gordon said. “Everything was IndyCar, open wheel, sprint car and midget racing to me. I knew about the Daytona 500 and I knew who Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt were — but that was it.”

Gordon, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, received 96 percent of the votes from the committee, meaning only two of the 57 voters didn’t vote for him. Only Petty (200) and Bobby Pearson (105) have won more Cup races than Gordon.

Car owners Jack Roush and Roger Penske also were selected to the Hall of Fame, along with drivers Davey Allison and Alan Kulwicki.

Roush has won a record 325 races across NASCAR’s three national series, including five national series owner championships, while his drivers have won three championships. He helped Matt Kenseth (2003) and Kurt Busch (2004) emerge into premier series champions and jumpstarted the careers of Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle.

But the 76-year-old Roush his fondest memory in racing was when Mark Martin won the first Cup race for him as an owner in Rockingham, North Carolina, in 1989.

“What that meant to me is I could find a sponsor to keep going and for Mark it meant that the team was going to be solid and keep putting cars on the track,” Roush said. “There was some doubt in our minds if we were going to be able to turn the corner.”

Said Martin: “He mentored and gave the tools to people who otherwise wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity had it not been for him.”

Penske won the premier series championship in 2012 with driver Brad Keselowski, and owns two Daytona 500 wins with Ryan Newman in 2008 and Joey Logano in 2015.

Rusty Wallace, the third-winningest Team Penske driver said, “I don’t know of anyone who has accomplished as much across all levels of motorsports as Roger Penske. I don’t know anyone in motorsports that is more respected among all levels of racing as Roger.”

Kulwicki, known for his wrong-way “Polish victory lap,” and Allison, who won 19 Cup races, including the 1992 Daytona 500, were rising stars in NASCAR before their sudden deaths in 1993. Kulwicki died at age 38 in a plane crash that April while the charismatic Allison lost his life three months later in a helicopter crash at 32.

Gordon called Allison a “rock star.”

“He was the one who was going to take NASCAR to the next level,” Gordon said.

Allison joins his father Bobby Allison in the Hall of Fame.

Bobby Allison couldn’t hold back his emotions after hearing his son’s name called, saying he had to gather himself after being overcome with emotion.

He called Bobby “the ultimate son.”

“How many fathers here have had their son come to them and say, ‘Dad, how can I get better at what I want to do?'” Allison said.

Kulwicki was a short-track racer from Wisconsin who made the move to Charlotte in 1984 with nothing but a pickup truck and a self-built race car with hopes of competing in NASCAR’s premier series. With no sponsor and a limited budget, he went on to win the 1986 NASCAR Rookie of the Year with his self-owned AK Racing team. He won five career races, including the Cup championship in 1992. He never got a chance to defend that title.

Kulwicki perhaps became best known for his victory celebrations where he turned around his car after crossing the finish line and driving in the opposite direction around the track.

Jim Hunter was selected as the Landmark Award winner. He worked six decades as a company executive, track president, public relations professional and journalist.


More AP auto racing:

NASCAR: Harvick makes it look easy in cruising to fourth win this season

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA TODAY SPORTS)   —   DOVER, Del. – They used to run 500-mile races at Dover International Speedway.

Around a super-fast, high-banked, 1-mile track where every lap is an invitation to chaos, this was punishment not meant for mere mortals.

It perhaps explains why immortals, men such as Richard Petty, David Pearson, Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Sr., won most of those races.

The longest stock car race in the track’s nearly 50-year history was a 500-miler Sept. 19, 1993. Rusty Wallace won that one in a brisk 4 hours, 59 minutes. If Ol’ Rusty had been a bit slower, Dover would have had a five-hour race.

Not exactly a bragging point.

Track officials and/or NASCAR came to their senses in 1997, trimming the race length to 400 miles and making the event much more of a competition and much less of a tongue-dragging marathon.

Modern Dover races are relative sprints. Last year’s two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races here were completed in 3 hours, 52 minutes and 3 hours, 5 minutes.

None of this means that the drivers who win at Dover now would not have won when the races were longer, but it’s clear that the racing is decidedly different and that precision, aggression and performance mean much more than endurance and outlasting the other guy.

It’s not as easy to dominate Dover races as it used to be, for it often has been the case here that distance (in that other time) and huge crashes (in every time) have taken out contenders.

But on Sunday, Kevin Harvick made it look easy. He turned in the sort of overpowering performance that beat not only his rapidly running teammate, Clint Bowyer, but also every other pretender, including 11-time track winner Jimmie Johnson. Johnson had one of the better days of what has been a tough season for him, but he still wasn’t able to lead a lap and could only watch as Harvick accomplished the things Johnson once did at one of stock car racing’s toughest tracks.

It wasn’t always this way for Harvick at Dover. He raced at the track for the first time in the Cup series in 2001, barely a few months after replacing the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. in Richard Childress Racing’s top car.

Surprisingly, Harvick needed 30 races to score his first — and until Sunday, only — win here. That occurred in the second season after Harvick left Richard Childress Racing for Stewart-Haas.

There was little doubt Harvick would win Sunday if his car held up. He led big chunks of laps — 21, 14, 31, 43, 29 and 63 at the end, 201 of 400 overall.

Bowyer also was quick. He led throughout the 41-minute rain delay that threatened to end the race early but had nothing for Harvick once the weather cleared and green conditions ruled the day again. He finished second by 7.11 seconds as Stewart-Haas put three cars (Kurt Busch was fifth) in the top five, a remarkable accomplishment at a track that eats race cars.

“I want to thank everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing, everybody at Ford for just continuing to put the effort they put into these cars,” Harvick said. “Three cars in the top five says a lot about where we are as a company, but it’s fun racing your teammate. That says a lot about our company and one of your good friends as well.”

Bowyer led 40 laps but said he wasn’t in the front long enough to try to make his car better and into Harvick’s class.

“We needed a chance to adjust our car in clear air like he did,” Bowyer said. “He had that luxury all day long. I knew when he took off and the car rotated as good as it did that I was way too loose. When you’re loose in the corner here, you’re in trouble.”

Everybody who wasn’t named Kevin Harvick was in trouble Sunday. And maybe beyond Sunday.

NASCAR: Harvick takes the checkered flag at Dover for 4th win

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DOVER, Del. (AP) — Kevin Harvick was flanked by his Stewart-Haas Racing team on the victory lane stage when a photographer yelled at the group, “What are you holding up?”

“Four!” they shouted in unison.

Harvick, team owner Tony Stewart and the rest flashed their fingers Four Horsemen-style and let out a “Wooo!” before they uncorked the champagne and sprayed anyone in their sights.

The checkered flag collection keeps growing at SHR, and Harvick is leading the way.

Harvick dominated a race interrupted by rain and drove to his Cup Series-high fourth victory of the season Sunday at Dover International Speedway.

“I feel like we’re playoff-racing on a weekly basis,” Harvick said.

He reeled off three straight wins at Atlanta, Las Vegas and Phoenix earlier this season and now has the 60-pound Miles the Monster trophy to add to his collection.

His brought the trophy home following his first win at Dover in October 2015, only to have his young son break the arm on the fiberglass creature that was never cleaned from the victory celebration.

“I’m bringing it home but do not break the arm off of this one,” Harvick said he told his son. “It’s hard to explain to people why his playroom smells like beer.”

Harvick swept the first two stages and easily chased down SHR teammate Clint Bowyer in the third for the lead after a 41-minute delay. Bowyer, who won this season at Martinsville to snap a 190-race losing streak dating to 2012, had asked for a rain dance when the race was stopped with 80 laps left.

Once it resumed, Harvick waltzed his way into victory lane in the No. 4 Ford. He led 201 of 400 laps and stormed past Bowyer and took the lead for good with 62 laps left.

“You knew he was going to be the one that you were going to have to beat for the win,” Bowyer said.

Harvick’s 41st career Cup victory gives him a stout nine top-10 finishes and eight top-fives in 11 starts this season. He held four fingers out the window as he took a victory lap on the mile concrete track and won at Dover for the second time.

Bowyer was second. Daniel Suarez, Martin Truex Jr. and Kurt Busch rounded out the top five.

SHR had three cars in the top five with Harvick, Bowyer and Busch.

“Three cars in the top five says a lot about where we are as a company,” Harvick said. “It’s fun racing your teammate.”

SHR has five wins this season and has never won more than six in its 10-year history.

“It’s days like today that builds momentum for the organization,” Stewart said. “It’s about evolution.”

NASCAR waits another week for its own transformation to happen.

The ballyhooed youth movement that was supposed to usher in NASCAR’s rebirth continues to fizzle. The Dover race program had a photo of seven drivers with one career Cup win on the cover, yet the 42-year-old Harvick continues to hold off the so-called “young guns.”

Harvick, Truex and Bowyer — all winners this year — are over 35.

One highlight, Suarez, NASCAR’s first Mexican champion in the Xfinity Series, did match his career-best finish while driving with a broken left thumb.

“I feel like I was putting a lot of pressure on myself earlier in the season, trying to put a lot of pressure on the team to get the results,” he said.

Here’s what else happened at Dover:


Kyle Busch failed to finish a race for the first time this season because of a broken drive shaft on the No. 18 Toyota.

Busch, who had complained of a vibration for most of the race, was running third when the part finally broke and dumped oil across the track.


Dover had its earliest Cup date since it started in 1969.

“NASCAR and the networks, they have a pretty tough job of balancing everything out,” track president Mike Tatoian said. “If you look at the overall NASCAR schedule, it may be an improvement. But that means some tracks get the short end of the stick, some tracks get the benefit from it. From our perspective, if we had our choice, of course we’d go later.”


Pole sitter Kyle Larson was sent to the back of the field because his No. 42 Chevrolet failed pre-race inspection three times. Larson had won his fifth career pole and was a heavy favorite on the strength of two runner-up finishes at the track.

Alex Bowman and Austin Dillon also were sent to the rear because of inspection issues with their cars. Larson and Bowman lost their car chiefs, and both teams were docked 30 minutes of practice next week at Kansas Speedway.


Larson said John Hunter Nemechek is on call for Kansas in case the Larsons’ second baby is born.


Trevor Bayne, the 2011 Daytona 500 champion, is set to yield the No. 6 Ford next week to the returning Matt Kenseth. Kenseth, a two-time Daytona 500 winner and former Cup champion, was hired by Roush Fenway Racing to split races with Bayne.


The series shifts to Kansas Speedway, where Truex is the defending race winner.



Sunday from the 1-mile Dover International Speedway (starting position in parentheses):

1. (2) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 400 laps, 60 points.

2. (12) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 400, 45.

3. (7) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 400, 46.

4. (3) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 400, 37.

5. (9) Kurt Busch, Ford, 400, 38.

6. (8) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 400, 48.

7. (10) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 400, 30.

8. (14) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 400, 33.

9. (19) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 400, 38.

10. (1) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 400, 27.

11. (13) Aric Almirola, Ford, 400, 26.

12. (6) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 400, 32.

13. (18) Joey Logano, Ford, 400, 27.

14. (17) William Byron, Chevrolet, 399, 23.

15. (5) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, 399, 22.

16. (23) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 399, 21.

17. (25) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 399, 20.

18. (11) Erik Jones, Toyota, 399, 19.

19. (22) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 398, 18.

20. (16) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 398, 17.

21. (28) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 397, 16.

22. (29) Michael McDowell, Ford, 397, 15.

23. (15) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 397, 14.

24. (30) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 396, 13.

25. (26) Darrell Wallace Jr, Chevrolet, 396, 12.

26. (27) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 395, 11.

27. (32) David Ragan, Ford, 395, 10.

28. (31) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 393, 0.

29. (24) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 392, 8.

30. (35) Gray Gaulding, Toyota, 386, 7.

31. (33) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 385, 6.

32. (34) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 382, 5.

33. (21) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 377, 4.

34. (20) Paul Menard, Ford, 354, 3.

35. (4) Kyle Busch, Toyota, garage, 271, 19.

36. (37) Cody Ware, Chevrolet, accident, 244, 0.

37. (36) Derrike Cope, Chevrolet, accident, 144, 1.

38. (38) Corey Lajoie, Chevrolet, engine, 20, 1.


Average Speed of Race Winner: 115.044 mph.

Time of Race: 3 hours, 28 minutes, 37 seconds.

Margin of Victory: 7.450 seconds.

Caution Flags: 8 for 48 laps.

Lead Changes: 17 among 6 drivers.

Lap Leaders: K. Harvick 1-21; A. Bowman 22-47; B. Keselowski 48-107; K. Harvick 108-121; B. Keselowski 122; K. Harvick 123-153; B. Keselowski 154-199; K. Harvick 200-242; B. Keselowski 243; K. Harvick 244-272; R. Stenhouse Jr. 273-295; C. Bowyer 296; R. Stenhouse Jr. 297; C. Bowyer 298-321; J. Logano 322; C. Bowyer 323-337; K. Harvick 338-400.


Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): K. Harvick 6 times for 201 laps; B. Keselowski 4 times for 108 laps; C. Bowyer 3 times for 40 laps; A. Bowman 1 time for 26 laps; R. Stenhouse Jr. 2 times for 24 laps; J. Logano 1 time for 1 lap.

Wins: K.Harvick, 4; Ky.Busch, 3; C.Bowyer, 1; A.Dillon, 1; J.Logano, 1; M.Truex, 1.

Top 16 in Points: 1. Ky.Busch, 466; 2. J.Logano, 444; 3. K.Harvick, 426; 4. C.Bowyer, 380; 5. B.Keselowski, 365; 6. Ku.Busch, 358; 7. R.Blaney, 346; 8. D.Hamlin, 344; 9. M.Truex, 340; 10. K.Larson, 307; 11. A.Almirola, 304; 12. J.Johnson, 268; 13. E.Jones, 253; 14. A.Bowman, 252; 15. C.Elliott, 241; 16. R.Stenhouse, 239.

NASCAR: Larson wins 5th career pole, Harvick also up front at Dover

DOVER, Del. (AP) — Kyle Larson had a good week with some nice drives.

Larson enjoyed playing in a PGA Tour Pro-Am, then turned a lap of 158.103 mph on Friday to take the pole at Dover International Speedway. In winning his fifth career pole, he gave Chevrolet a needed boost and its first pole since Alex Bowman took the top spot at the Daytona 500 back in February.

“Our team hasn’t once been stressed out about the new Camaro,” Larson said. “I don’t know what other people and teams are battling. I think balance-wise I feel exactly the same as what I did last year. It hasn’t been an issue to us. I feel like speed-wise, we are close to where we were.”

Larson will try Sunday to win his first race of the season and the Chip Ganassi Racing driver should be considered a favorite. Larson was runner-up in each of the last two spring races at Dover and has a 7.9 average finish in eight career races on the mile-long track.

Kevin Harvick in his Ford will be beside Larson on the front row as the Stewart-Haas Racing star goes for his fourth win of the season. Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. completed the top five in Friday’s qualifying.

Larson is a natural behind the wheel, but the 25-year-old is still learning his way on the links. Larson only picked up golf as a hobby two years ago but he jumped at the chance Wednesday to play with Russell Henley at Quail Hollow, the Charlotte, North Carolina site of the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I love golf,” Larson said. “As each week passes by, I’ve become more obsessed with it.”

Larson said he was about as nervous as he could remember before he approached the first tee box. But he steeled himself for his first drive and — sure enough — boom: “right down the fairway.” Henley, who has three PGA Tour wins, gave Larson some needed pointers.

It was just very relaxing out there on the golf course and all the fans there didn’t really bother me at all either,” Larson said. “It was just cool to get to play with him and get to experience the whole thing.”


Chase Elliott, another Chevy driver who had complained last week he didn’t have help from his fellow manufacturer drivers in the closing laps, will start sixth on Sunday.

“We have made some improvements and some gains coming into the weekend that we hope improve on Sunday,” Elliott said. “Will that improve us to the point where we can go dominate the race? I don’t know, I hope so, but I think it’s more present timing as to how your performance is more so than past history at a race track.”

Jimmie Johnson starts 19th as he tries to extend his track-record win total of 11.


Darrell Wallace Jr. had thrived at Dover and won two poles and had a runner-up finish in the Xfinity Series. But the driver better known as “Bubba” struggled in Cup and starts 26th.

“I’m just frustrated at how much speed we actually had and it wasn’t good enough,” he said. “I love coming to this place. I always have since 2011. And I’ve always shown decent speed. It’s frustrating.”


Truex hopes Dover — one of the many tracks that stakes a claim as Truex’s hometown track — can spark him out of a slump. The series champion has stumbled after a sizzling start (that included one win) over the last four races, finishing 37th, 30th, 14th and 26th last week at Talladega.

“I don’t even know if it’s my best track, but definitely performance-wise I think it’s up there with one of our best,” Truex said.


The hot topic all season — such is the state of the sports — has been problems with the NASCAR-issued pit guns designed to stop bottomless team spending on developing faster, efficient air guns to speed up pit stop tire changes.

Joey Logano said pit guns were discussed this week at a driver council meeting.

“I think the pit gun thing will be fine,” he said. “There will be growing pains with some changes. There is a learning curve for the teams and NASCAR, but we have to make changes to continue growing and sometimes there will be pain when that happens.”



DOVER, Del. (AP) — Johnny Sauter led for 137 laps, battled a teenager down the stretch and held off a fellow 40-something in a two-lap overtime restart for his second straight victory in the Truck Series race at Dover International Speedway.

Sauter narrowly split two spinning trucks with 20 laps to go and briefly lost the lead on the final regulation restart to 19-year-old Noah Gragson. But the two collided while battling for the lead with two laps remaining and Gragson backed hard into the wall.

Matt Crafton and Sauter, the last two Truck Series winners at Dover, were on the front row in overtime, and Sauter quickly pulled out to a lengthy lead for the victory on Friday.

“Johnny turned 40 this week, so he’s part of the old man crew and we’ve caught a lot of flak this week,” Crafton said. “But these two 40-year-olds showed the kids how to do it, I guess.”

Gragson, the pole-setter, led throughout the first stage and finished 20th. Justin Haley, David Gilliland and Harrison Burton completed the top five.

“We had to work for this one today,” Sauter said. “I had a good run on him (Gragson) there and he squeezed me off and I was like, ‘Well, OK, you just gave me the green light to be aggressive.'”

Following a caution with 12 laps to go, Gragson grabbed the lead after side-by-side racing. Sauter retook it six laps later on a strong run to the outside.

“So close to winning and all I could think about was just the mistake I made and I really want to get that monster,” Gragson said.

Sauter’s second victory of the season — and 19th of his career —extended his series lead to 51 points over Ben Rhodes, who took eighth. Gragson sits in third at 58.

Jesse Little, son of Chad Little, briefly took the first lead of his NASCAR career by overtaking Sauter with 79 laps left, but was penalized for pitting outside the box and finished ninth.


More AP racing:

NASCAR: Chevrolets look to make headway vs. Fords, Toyotas at Dover Cup race

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA TODAY SPORTS)   —   DOVER, Del. — The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season is almost one-third gone, and all indications are that Chevrolet in general and one Chevrolet team in particular have unfinished business.

Chevrolet hasn’t won a race since Austin Dillon scored in the season-opening Daytona 500. Ford has won five races and Toyota four since the February opener.

Of the top 10 drivers in laps led through 10 races, only one — Kyle Larson in sixth place — drives a Chevrolet.

Entering Sunday’s AAA 400 Drive for Autism at Dover International Speedway, the most surprising numbers in the Bowtie camp belong to perennial powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports, which is 0-for-40 with its four-driver team this year.

It isn’t necessarily surprising that relative newcomers Alex Bowman and William Byron haven’t scored a win 10 races into the schedule, but many observers assumed that Chase Elliott finally would cross the victory-lane threshold by this point. Elliott has had potentially winning cars but has been diverted at the brink of victory.

And, of course, there’s the swarm of questions surrounding seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, whose failure to win a race since last June — when he scored at Dover — continues to confuse and befuddle.

Johnson has three top 10s, and Elliott has three top fives, but the bigger rewards have remained elusive.

Johnson, now 14th in the point standings, will attack his drought this weekend from a great starting point. Dover is one of his best tracks. In fact, his win total of 11 at the Monster Mile is only one fewer than the victories totaled by all other drivers in Sunday’s field.

To master Dover, as Johnson clearly has, is to learn the ins and outs of one of the sport’s fastest one-mile tracks. Dover’s high banking keeps speeds boiling throughout the race, and drivers — most of whom seem to love the track — say the ride is very much like a roller-coaster.

Negotiating the track’s fast turns and bumpy surface is one thing; managing tires and avoiding accidents is quite another. It usually takes the full package to win at Dover.

“Dover is really a tricky place,” Johnson said. “There are usually quite a few caution flags, so you have to find a balance between a ‘green’ track for the first 10 or 15 laps to a longer run where there is a lot of rubber laid down on the track on a longer green-flag run.

“Finding your balance is probably the most challenging thing at Dover. Corner entry is everything. Concrete tracks are poured in squares just like on an interstate, so there are a bunch of expansion joints around the track and it really shakes and rattles the car. It’s bumpy, and there are bumps in turns one and three. So if your car isn’t bottoming out and your splitter isn’t hitting, you are usually OK, and it’s just part of the ride at Dover.”

Laps click off quickly at Dover. Martin Truex Jr. won the pole for last fall’s race at the track with a speed of 160.664 miles per hour — very fast for a one-mile track.

“Dover is the racetrack where you feel the sensation of speed more than anything,” said Kevin Harvick, three times a winner this year. “It’s a place where you drop off into the corner and slam into a lot of banking and then, as you come out of the corner, it’s kind of like jumping out of a hole and up onto the straightaway.

“It’s a really fun place to race. You feel that sensation of speed, and you can be really aggressive.”

Joining Johnson (83 career Cup victories) on the list of key drivers yet to win this season are Denny Hamlin (31), Ryan Blaney (1), Kyle Larson (5), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (2), Kurt Busch (29) and Brad Keselowski (24).


Driver Car Laps led
Kevin Harvick Ford 540
Kyle Busch Toyota 498
Ryan Blaney Ford 364
Martin Truex Jr. Toyota 264
Clint Bowyer Ford 260
Kyle Larson Chevrolet 254
Denny Hamlin Toyota 226
Kurt Busch Ford 217
Joey Logano Ford 201
Brad Keselowski Ford 139

Joey Logano takes NASCAR Cup race at Talladega to snap one-year winless streak

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA TODAY SPORTS)   —   TALLADEGA, Ala. — How the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway played out Sunday:

WINNER: Joey Logano held off several challengers in the final laps as Fords dominated the afternoon under sunny skies in Alabama. Ford cars took six of the top seven spots, with only Chase Elliott in a Chevrolet, spoiling the party.

Logano scored his third career Cup victory at Talladega and his first since going to victory lane at Richmond Raceway last April. Logano also won at Talladega in 2015 and 2016 whileTeam Penske drivers have now captured since of the last eight wins at NASCAR’s biggest track.

“What a fast Ford teamwork that did it today. Not only with the Team Penske Fords, but all of the Fords out there,” Logano said after climbing out of his car.

“Man, it feels so good to be back in victory lane. There’s no feeling like this. It’s been quite the weekend and a long time coming. I don’t have to worry about the playoffs anymore — we’re in!

Kurt Busch finished second, followed by Elliott, Kevin Harvick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., last year’s GEICO 500 winner. David Ragan and Aric Almirola rounded out the Ford spree in sixth and seventh.

“I felt like I needed to do something different. I needed a run from behind,” Busch said. “The 17 (Stenhouse), once he broke up Kevin (Harvick) and I, my plan was to roll with Kevin until the last lap then slingshot by him on the last lap.

“The 17, percentages say he’s going to be the strongest guy here at the end, he was there, I just needed him closer to my rear bumper to get that drive, to get that run. … I got outfoxed, didn’t quite make the right move, and it’s a shame. It was one of the best Fords I’ve ever had.”

THE BIG ONE: It arrived late in the day, but when it happened it was BIG. Jimmie Johnson lost control of his car between turns three and four, sparking the incident. Also involved among 14 drivers in a smoke-filled mess of a wreck were Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard, Brad Keselowski, William Byron, Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin and Bubba Wallace.

Kyle Busch had won the previous three races and was aiming to become the 13th driver to win at least four consecutive Cup races. Busch was still able to rebound from the crash and finish 13th.

HAMLIN IN A HURRY: Hamlin was nabbed for speeding on pit road twice within a few minutes with about 40 laps to go. After the first incident, he drove onto pit road to serve his penalty but was speeding during that trip along pit road. He returned to the pits for a stop-and-go penalty and fell a lap behind the leaders.

STAGE TWO: Menard scored the first stage win of his career as he pushed the Wood Brothers Ford to first place at the front of a long draft. Logano was second, followed by Blaney, Harvick, Stenhouse, Ragan, Johnson, Kurt Busch, Byron and Kyle Busch.

BAYNE PARKED BY CRASH: A six-car crash on lap 72 sent Trevor Bayne to the garage. Bayne, who has been in the spotlight this week because of changes at Roush Fenway Racing that will limit his schedule the rest of the year, was involved in contact with Jamie McMurray and Erik Jones during the incident. Also caught up in the backstretch crash were Martin Truex Jr., Aric Almirola and Kyle Larson.

“It stinks,” Bayne said. “You try to manage your highs and lows, though. We will move on and go to Dover (Del.) next weekend. It is frustrating because Talladega is one of the ones you know you can win at, and we wanted to do that today.”

Larson described the cars as being “really on the edge” and said drivers were being careful in the first stage as they raced mostly in single file.

STAGE ONE: Keselowski, a five-time winner at Talladega, led the way to the finish of the first stage. The stage win was his fourth of the season. Following in the top 10 and scoring points were Logano, Truex, Kyle Busch, Menard, Hamlin, Blaney, Stenhouse, Harvick and Johnson.

BOXING AND FOOTBALL: Pre-race ceremonies featured two notable celebrities. Driving the pace car was WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder, a native of Tuscaloosa, Ala. Auburn University football coach Gus Malzahn gave the “Drivers, Start Your Engines” command, tossing in a bonus “War Eagle”.

Wilder and Malzahn met before the race, and Malzahn jokingly asked the boxer if he had collegiate eligibility remaining.

NASCAR: Joey Logano snaps long losing streak with win at Talladega

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TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) — Joey Logano had a clear race track in his windshield and a pack of fellow Ford drivers on his bumper. That combination helped the Team Penske driver snap a nearly yearlong losing streak.

Logano won Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway to snap a streak that dated to April 30 of last year. That win at Richmond was later disqualified because his car failed inspection, so the benefits from the victory were stripped and it cost him a spot in the playoffs.

Out front at Talladega, which is usually the worst place to be in the closing laps, Logano couldn’t be caught. His Ford teammates were committed to getting a Ford the win, and they waited patiently in line until the closing laps to make their attempt at snatching the victory away from Logano.

Only Kurt Busch was bold enough to make an early move, and he wrongly thought defending race winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. would go with him. Stenhouse didn’t get to Busch in time, Kevin Harvick wasn’t prepared for Busch to go so early, and Busch couldn’t garner enough steam to catch Logano.

Logano sailed to an easy victory at a track where he should have been forced to defend several attempts at a pass on the final lap.

“I really thought (Busch and Harvick) were the cars, no matter where they went, if they got to the outside of me, I was hosed. I knew that. That would have been the end of it for me,” Logano said. “I would have gotten passed by pretty much the whole train. I would have lost so much momentum. I knew they were going to work together, as they should. Once they got picked apart, think that was the game changer.”

It was Logano’s third career win at Talladega.

Busch finished second, his career best finish at Talladega, as Ford drivers went 1-2.

Chase Elliott was third in a Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, while Kevin Harvick was fourth in a Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was fifth, David Ragan sixth and Aric Almirola seventh as Ford drivers took six of the seven spots.

Elliott said the Fords had too strong and steady of a strategy for him to have any chance at making a move to catch Logano.

“I thought for sure one of them wanted to win more than they showed,” Elliott said. “If it was me, I would have wanted to do something or try. They were not interested in advancing. They were not going to help me move forward.”

Busch said his intention was to work with Stenhouse to help SHR get a victory from either Busch or Harvick.

“Two Stewart-Haas cars running second and third should have been able to pull this off,” Busch said. “I’m happy that a Ford won. It wasn’t the right one. Kevin was in good position. I was going to roll with him in any direction that I could. We just got broken up by Stenhouse.

“You wish you could go over and do it again. I feel like I left that one out on the table. ”

Harvick felt Busch made his move too early.

“The Fords are so fast, we had five or six lined up there, and Kurt went a lap before I was ready,” Harvick said.

Other events at Talladega:


Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson’s losing streak hit 33 races when he finished 12th.

He was part of a 14-car accident late in the race when he slid in front of teammate William Byron to start the melee that knocked out two Team Penske cars — Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney — as well as second stage winner Paul Menard.

Johnson thought as he closed in on Byron, the air was taken off his Chevrolet.

“I was in the second lane and he came up near my lane and then packed air underneath us and around it went,” Johnson said.


Jamie McMurray was involved in two accidents at Talladega, including a frightening crash during a practice session in which his Chevrolet rolled several times.

He didn’t catch any breaks on Sunday and was in an early accident that led to a 28th-place finish.


The rules package NASCAR used Sunday at Talladega made the cars difficult to drive and changed the dynamic of a race that usually is marked by multiple accidents.

“The cars weren’t handling really good, so you had to be very cautious with the runs that you had and where you had them,” Johnson said.

Drivers weren’t able to make big moves or slingshot passes, and it created a lot of single-file racing.

“I think the cars are a handful to drive and I think that is why we have seen a lot of single file racing, just because everybody’s confidence in their cars isn’t as high as it has been in the past,” Kyle Larson said. “Less big moves and stuff, so I think it kind of gets single file because of that.”


Sunday’s race at Dover International Speedway in Delaware, where Johnson scored his last Cup victory last year.



Sunday from the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway (starting position in parentheses):

1. (9) Joey Logano, Ford, 188 laps, 58 points.

2. (2) Kurt Busch, Ford, 188, 38.

3. (5) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 188, 34.

4. (1) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 188, 42.

5. (7) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, 188, 41.

6. (12) David Ragan, Ford, 188, 36.

7. (40) Aric Almirola, Ford, 188, 30.

8. (11) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 188, 29.

9. (18) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 188, 28.

10. (14) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 188, 27.

11. (25) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 188, 26.

12. (16) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 188, 30.

13. (19) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 188, 32.

14. (4) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 188, 28.

15. (29) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 188, 22.

16. (15) Darrell Wallace Jr, Chevrolet, 188, 21.

17. (26) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 188, 20.

18. (23) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 188, 31.

19. (33) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 188, 18.

20. (31) D.J. Kennington, Toyota, 188, 17.

21. (36) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 188, 16.

22. (30) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 188, 15.

23. (32) Timothy Peters, Ford, 187, 0.

24. (37) Gray Gaulding, Toyota, 187, 13.

25. (35) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 186, 0.

26. (3) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, accident, 184, 19.

27. (34) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, engine, 178, 0.

28. (27) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 174, 9.

29. (17) William Byron, Chevrolet, accident, 165, 10.

30. (13) Paul Menard, Ford, accident, 165, 23.

31. (8) Clint Bowyer, Ford, accident, 165, 6.

32. (20) Michael McDowell, Ford, accident, 165, 5.

33. (10) Brad Keselowski, Ford, accident, 165, 14.

34. (28) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, accident, 165, 3.

35. (24) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, accident, 165, 2.

36. (39) Timmy Hill, Chevrolet, engine, 151, 0.

37. (38) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, suspension, 79, 1.

38. (21) Trevor Bayne, Ford, accident, 71, 1.

39. (6) Erik Jones, Toyota, accident, 71, 1.

40. (22) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, accident, 71, 1.


Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 152.486 mph.

Time of Race: 3 hours, 16 minutes, 46 seconds.

Margin of Victory: 0.127 seconds.

Caution Flags: 6 for 29 laps.

Lead Changes: 25 among 16 drivers.

Lap Leaders: K.Harvick 1-12; A.Bowman 13-38; D.Wallace 39-43; B.Keselowski 44-57; A.Allmendinger 58; B.Keselowski 59-61; W.Byron 62-63; B.Keselowski 64-66; W.Byron 67; C.Buescher 68; M.DiBenedetto 69-74; J.Logano 75-96; D.Hamlin 97-104; P.Menard 105-112; B.Gaughan 113; W.Byron 114-124; Ku.Busch 125-129; A.Allmendinger 130; R.Stenhouse 131-134; D.Hamlin 135-137; J.Logano 138-140; B.Keselowski 141; J.Logano 142-144; D.Suarez 145; K.Kahne 146; J.Logano 147-188

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): J.Logano, 4 times for 66 laps; A.Bowman, 1 time for 25 laps; B.Keselowski, 4 times for 17 laps; W.Byron, 3 times for 11 laps; K.Harvick, 1 time for 11 laps; D.Hamlin, 2 times for 9 laps; P.Menard, 1 time for 7 laps; M.DiBenedetto, 1 time for 5 laps; Ku.Busch, 1 time for 4 laps; D.Wallace, 1 time for 4 laps; R.Stenhouse, 1 time for 3 laps; A.Allmendinger, 2 times for 0 laps; C.Buescher, 1 time for 0 laps; B.Gaughan, 1 time for 0 laps; K.Kahne, 1 time for 0 laps; D.Suarez, 1 time for 0 laps.

Wins: Ky.Busch, 3; K.Harvick, 3; C.Bowyer, 1; A.Dillon, 1; J.Logano, 1; M.Truex, 1.

Top 16 in Points: 1. Ky.Busch, 447; 2. J.Logano, 417; 3. K.Harvick, 366; 4. C.Bowyer, 335; 5. Ku.Busch, 320; 6. B.Keselowski, 317; 7. D.Hamlin, 314; 8. R.Blaney, 313; 9. M.Truex, 303; 10. K.Larson, 280; 11. A.Almirola, 278; 12. A.Bowman, 238; 13. E.Jones, 234; 14. J.Johnson, 230; 15. R.Stenhouse, 217; 16. R.Newman, 214.

NASCAR: Talladega could be equalizer for Busch and Harvick

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The score is tied 3-3 between Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick in the race for hottest driver in NASCAR. Each has won three races in a row and has been nearly unbeatable through the first nine races of the season.

Up next, though, is Talladega Superspeedway, a wild-card race track that could even the field.

It means Jimmie Johnson, mired in a 32-race losing streak, has a chance to snap the longest winless streak of his career.

Or Ricky Stenhouse Jr. could defend last year’s Talladega victory, the first Cup win of his career.

Austin Dillon won the season-opening Daytona 500, and he’s got as good a chance as anyone to win Sunday.

Same goes for Brad Keselowski, considered by most of his peers the best restrictor-plate racer in the field right now.

Busch goes to Alabama as the hottest driver in the series and the Cup Series points leader. He’s won the last three races — at Texas, Bristol Motor Speedway and Richmond — and has three runner-up finishes through nine races.

“Pretty cool to win three in a row,” Busch said after Saturday night’s victory at Richmond. “Next week we go to Talladega. I think it’s easier to win the Powerball than win at Talladega. We’ll give it a go anyway, see what we get.”

Talladega should be a crapshoot with zero guarantees. It was the Team Penske trio of Keselowski, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney that led Speedweeks in Daytona and cemented themselves as the favorites for the 500. But Keselowski was wrecked out of the race, Blaney was lost in traffic after leading a race-high 118 laps and Logano led the Penske charge with a disappointing fourth-place finish.

With the Penske cars out of contention, the closing laps belonged to resurgent Stewart-Haas Racing. Both Kurt Busch and Aric Almirola had a shot to win the Daytona 500 in overtime and both were wrecked — Almirola by Dillon as they raced for the checkered flag.

Dillon led just one lap, the final one, to earn his Daytona 500 victory.

Because Daytona and Talladega are so similar in speed, style and the way the field races in a pack, the dominance shown so far this season by Busch and Harvick may not matter. With 16 spots up for grabs in the playoffs, this is a race where a driver can steal a postseason berth. Only five drivers have qualified for the playoffs through nine races: Harvick and Busch, then Dillon for his Daytona victory, defending series champion Martin Truex Jr. for his win in California and Clint Bowyer for his Martinsville Speedway victory.

Stenhouse, winner at Talladega last spring and Daytona in July, doesn’t mind the dominance shown so far by Busch and Harvick because it opens up playoff chances at other circuits.

“(The) less people win and the more opportunity for somebody like us to get in (to the playoffs) on points if we need to,” Stenhouse said. “It doesn’t really bother me that a couple people are winning most of the races. Those two are definitely by far the fastest cars out there right now.”

Johnson, the seven-time NASCAR champion, has not had one of the fastest cars this year and had a disastrous Speedweeks at Daytona. He crashed in every event and has yet to lead a single lap all year. He’s a two-time winner at Talladega and has every reason to believe he can be in the mix Sunday.

But like his Hendrick Motorsports teammates, he’s working with a new Camaro that has yet to show much muscle on the track. Dillon’s victory in the 500 is the only win this season for the new Chevrolet model, and Kyle Larson in 10th is the highest-ranked Chevy driver.

If there’s a chance to put an end to Busch and Harvick’s mastery so far this season, it comes Sunday with a wide-open opportunity for another driver to get to victory lane.


More AP Auto Racing:

NASCAR: Harvick takes a bumpy road to 100 victories

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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

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(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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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(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

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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.

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