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NEWTON, Iowa (AP) — Erik Jones will start first Sunday in the NASCAR Xfinity race at Iowa Speedway after winning his sixth pole of the season.
Jones has twice as many qualifying victories in 2016 as Kyle Busch, who is second in the series with three. But Jones is just fourth in the point standings, 55 points behind teammate Daniel Suarez, largely because he failed to finish two races.
“Just staying up on it and making good adjustments,” Jones said when asked about the keys for Sunday’s race. “Everybody is going to getting their stuff better all day long, and we need to make sure we’re ahead of the curve.
Suarez will look to make it back-to-back wins after becoming the first Mexican winning in a NASCAR national series last week at Michigan.
Sam Hornish Jr. will start third in his first race of 2016, giving Joe Gibbs Racing the top three spots on the grid.
Justin Allgaier was fourth, followed by Elliott Sadler, Ben Kennedy and Sprint Cup regular Brad Keselowski.
Kennedy, who topped both practice sessions Friday, will be making his first series start.
Keselowski has won three times in Iowa, including his last two starts in 2013 and 2014.
NEWTON, Iowa (AP) — High school diploma in hand, William Byron seems to have already found his calling.
Byron held off the field on a late restart to win the NASCAR Truck Series race at Iowa Speedway on Saturday night for his second straight victory.
The 18-year-old Byron held off a hard-charging Cole Custer by less than a half-second for his third victory in just nine career starts.
Byron also is 2-0 in trucks since graduating from Charlotte Country Day school in North Carolina — and he’s just 11 points behind Matt Crafton in the season standings.
“We’ve kind of hit our stride in May and now June, and we’ve been able to focus on what we need to do better,” said Byron, who will attend Liberty University, the sponsor of his No. 9 truck, in the fall. “I wouldn’t say it’s related to graduating high school, although it’s definitely a relief.”
Custer was second, followed by ThorSport Racing teammates Cameron Hayley and Ben Rhodes.
Tyler Reddick, who led 37 laps, was fifth.
The first 150 laps or so didn’t provide much action, with only a mandatory caution clock keeping things interesting.
The finish showed why drivers often rave about Iowa’s 0.875-mile oval.
Reddick had clean air and the lead with 22 laps to go. But Tommy Joe Martins and Derek Scott Jr. got collected in the backstretch, drawing a red flag to clean up fluid on the track.
The restart saw multiple drivers jump out in front, and at times the battle for first went three-wide.
But another accident drew the final caution flag of the race. Once the green flag was raised, no one had enough to overtake Byron.
“After that red flag, things definitely multiplied by about a thousand,” Hayley said. “(Byron) made the best moves at the right time.”
John Hunter Nemecheck earned his first career pole earlier Saturday, and he led the first 53 laps before Byron surged ahead after a caution.
Byron seized control from there, leading by as much as five seconds over Ben Kennedy. That big lead was largely wiped out by the caution clock halfway through the race, but Byron was still able to set a personal best with 107 laps led.
Kaz Grala went sideways with just over 50 laps left. Byron’s truck stalled as he left his stall, pushing him down to 11th and Reddick into the lead ahead of a wild finish.
“When it came down to those last couple of restarts, I just knew that we could try the outside. I just kept moving up and up and up. I kept getting blocked, and finally I made it three-wide. It just worked out,” Byron said.
Despite failing to catch Byron, Hayley and Rhodes put forth strong showings for ThorSport, which saw its headquarters rendered unusable after a fire tore through the building on Monday.
“We only had two trucks for this race. We only have two trucks for the next race. So it’s really hard to try to race for a win and have that in your mind,” Rhodes said.
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(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today) — BROOKLYN, Mich. — NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers said immediately after the FireKeepers Casino 400 that they liked the low downforce package used at Michigan International Speedway today.
“I absolutely love it,” said Tony Stewart, who finished seventh. “The package is good. The aero package is starting to catch up now, the whole equation to this to make it all where everybody wants it to be are tires and aero. Up to this point, Goodyear has been way ahead of NASCAR. NASCAR is finally catching up. So, now we are all getting the split between the two groups closed up.
“The good thing is Goodyear is primed and ready to do all the stuff they need to do. They have been waiting on NASCAR. It’s coming around. It’s going back to … you know how today we got to drive the cars. We got to make a difference in the cars and manipulate things. That is what we have all been wanting. We are not running Mach 12 around here in the middle of the corner. I don’t know what everybody else is going to say, but I thought it was pretty good. It may not be perfect yet, but it is more than definitely going in the right direction for sure.”
Kasey Kahne, who finished 13th, said it was “definitely hairy” driving in traffic.
“If you chose the right spot or got put in the right spot you were good,” he said. “If you didn’t you were in bad shape. There was a lot going on with this package for sure. We are going to test Kentucky the next two days so hopefully we can make a few gains and understand it a little better for that race. That surface is going to be very interesting I would imagine.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was involved in a multi-car accident on Lap 60, didn’t have much to say: “It’s not a whole lot different than the other package. I think we talk about packages too much.”
Carl Edwards, who finished sixth, said the package was a work in progress.
“I applaud NASCAR for taking downforce away and the speeds are still so high because the surface is good and the Goodyear tires are good and everybody is working hard on their cars,” Edwards said. “They just keep working in this direction and we’re going to keep having better and better races. Those restarts, as crazy as they were, they were actually kind of fun.”
Joey Logano, who piloted his Ford to victory, described the cars as “out of control”. But that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“I remember after qualifying. … I was signing an autograph and my hand was shaking,” he said. “I couldn’t even write my name. That’s cool. That’s how on edge you have to be to go fast, and it was like that for 400 miles today, you know, and that’s awesome. We don’t want to – I don’t want to drive slow. That ain’t no fun. That’s the sport part of this. It should be a challenge. It should be on the edge. It shouldn’t be easy, and at this level it definitely isn’t.”
Sipple writes for the Detroit Free Press, part of the USA TODAY NETWORK
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BROOKLYN, Mich. (AP) — Joey Logano improved his chances of racing to his first NASCAR Sprint Cup victory of the year, posting a lap of 199.557 mph Friday to win the pole at Michigan International Speedway.
Logano said the cars are “out of control,” on the two-mile oval.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he insisted. “You’re booking down to the corners at 200 and something.”
Logano, who won 11 times the previous two years, will start first for the second time this year and the 16th in his career.
“Track position always plays when you’re making decisions,” he said.
Martin Truex Jr. will start second, his ninth start among the top 10 this season. Tony Stewart, who plans to retire at the end of the season, will start third in the 40-car race in his best qualifying performance of the year.
A new aerodynamic package along with wide and slick 2-mile oval, which had drivers going “sideways,” according to Truex, should set up for quite a race.
“Sunday is going to be a blast,” Truex said. “With that sun being on the racetrack all day, it’s going to be slick and fun.”
Truex was among 26 drivers who failed their initial NASCAR pre-qualifying inspection due to not meeting the new aerodynamic guidelines that are debuting this week. His qualifying run almost did not happen because his car failed NASCAR pre-qualifying inspection twice due to not meeting the new aero guidelines. His crew was able to get the car approved just as the qualifying was starting.
Logano was the second in qualifying the last two weeks at Charlotte and Pocono.
“The latest couple of ones have stung a lot,” he acknowledged. “We’ve won the first two rounds and come in second in the last one. So we figured it out. We won the same amount of rounds, but the right one. This is the one that counts.”
STREAKING: Denny Hamlin will begin fourth, keeping his streak of being the only driver to start in the top 12 in every race this season.
ROUGH ROAD: NASCAR Sprint Cup points leader Kevin Harvick was among the drivers who failed to advance out of the first round of qualifying. He was only able to complete three qualifying laps in the final four minutes of the session due to early caution flags for debris on the track and David Ragan hitting the wall on Turn 3. He will start from the 29th position, equaling his worst qualifying spot this season.
“Well, there was not a lot of common sense on when to throw the cautions out there on the race track,” Harvick said. “There was debris up out of the groove and you could hold the cars at the end of pit road.”
RACE AGAINST RACISM: A campaign to promote diversity, inclusion and equality within and outside of sports was unveiled Friday by NASCAR. The Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality will include a public service announcement during Sunday’s NASCAR race featuring Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, Aric Almirola, Kyle Larsen and Darrell Wallace Jr.
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — A rookie driver and recent high school graduate put an end to Matt Crafton’s chance for a Texas triple the day before his 40th birthday.
William Byron passed Crafton’s beat-up No. 88 Toyota with five laps to go Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway for his second career victory in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
“It was impressive what the kid did,” Crafton said. “I was a little bit worried with him under me and he got a loose a couple of times, I gave him room and he did a very job. Hats off, the kid did a very good job.”
Crafton, who finished second, had won the series’ last two races this season. The two-time series champion and current season points leader was also trying to win the June race at Texas for the third year in a row, and led 133 of 167 laps at the 1 1/2-mile, high-banked track in the Rattlesnake 400.
Byron also won at Kansas last month in the No. 9 Toyota owned by Kyle Busch, and joined Crafton as the only multiple winners this season.
“It’s huge, for our team to get another win this year really solidifies us, especially me,” Byron said. “It gives me a lot of confidence.”
After a restart with 43 laps left, Byron was inside of Crafton as they went side-to-side for six laps in a row and never separated by less than .03 seconds in that span before the veteran finally pulled ahead until the final pass.
“I was sideways a few times and I hopefully showed him I could do it, and hopefully have his respect,” Byron said.
Even after taking the lead, Byron had to hold off a final charge. Rico Abreu was on his bumper in the closing laps before getting loose and making contact with the wall, and then slipped back to finish ninth.
Crafton had overcome a cut rear tire in the early laps that damaged the truck and forced him to restart 25th. He led six different times, including the first lap after starting fourth.
“It says a lot about this team,” Crafton said. “Looking at the right side of that truck after the race, I still don’t know how we ran as good as we did. The tail was moved over at least three inches, and to have the speed we did was impressive.”
WHO’S HOT: Tyler Reddick was in the top five when his No. 29 Ford got loose. Reddick spun coming out of Turn 4, though he managed to keep the truck out of the wall on lap 52. He was able to immediately get to pit road, but missed his stall and had to go do another lap around the track before coming back in again. He recovered to finish fifth.
THE GRADUATE: There was some “Pomp and Circumstance” for Cole Custer. The 18-year-old JR Motorsports driver donned the traditional cap and gown over his firesuit during a prerace ceremony when he was presented his high school diploma by Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage. The rest of the Class of 2016 from Tesoro High School in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, had its graduation ceremony Thursday night, when Custer was already in Texas.
QUIROGA’S RETURN: Before a one-race deal with Red Horse Racing to drive the No. 11 Toyota on Friday night, German Quiroga’s last NASCAR truck series race had been in 2014. The Mexican driver qualified second, and went on to finish eighth.
UP NEXT: Iowa Speedway, June 18.
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CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Martin Truex Jr. didn’t avoid ladders or black cats, never worried about cracking mirrors or stepping on cracks. He knew his bad luck on the Sprint Cup circuit would change.
Truex showed that in a big way Sunday night, leading a NASCAR-record 588 of 600 miles to win the Coca-Cola 600 — and break free of the bad luck that seemed to hit him when dominating races.
“The whole weekend was one of those fairytale weekends,” said Truex, who started from the pole. “But even leading at the end, I thought, ‘All right, when’s the caution going to hit.’ Amnd it didn’t.”
Especially when things have gone as wrong as they had for Truex and his single-car Furniture Row team the past year.
He led 141 laps at Texas, yet got strung up by poor pit strategy and finished sixth. In Kansas this month, he was out front for 172 laps until a loose wheel knocked him back to 14th.
A year ago here, Truex led the most laps at 131, but fell to fifth when he pitted for fuel late and four cars, including winner Carl Edwards, stayed out.
Truex never let it get to him.
“I had confidence. I had faith,” Truex said.
Truex won the fourth time on the series and the first time since last June at Pocono.
“We’re going to keep pushing hard and work toward that championship goal,” Truex said.
Kevin Harvick was second, followed by Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch.
Truex’s win finished Memorial Day weekend’s mega-day of high-end racing that began with Lewis Hamilton’s win at the Monaco Grand Prix and continued with American rookie Alexander Rossi’s surprise triumph in the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.
Truex took the surprise out of this one early and was barely touched by the field. He was passed by Johnson on a restart 55 laps from the end, but Truex went back in front a lap later and was not pushed again.
He bettered Jim Paschal’s mark of leading 335 laps to win at Charlotte in 1967.
Truex’s single-car Furniture Row Racing team outclassed the armada of multi-car Sprint Cup powerhouses.
Four-time Coca-Cola 600 winner Johnson was on Truex’s door a handful of times on restarts, then would fade back. Harvick, who won here in 2011 and 2013, was the best of rest as he got by Johnson 44 laps from the end — yet never made a serious run at the top.
“I mean they have had a few runs where they have just been the class of the field and things have kept them from Victory Lane,” Johnson said. “Tonight he wasn’t going to be denied there was no way around that.”
Owner Roger Penske, who had a disappointing day at Indianapolis, hoped to rebound with his NASCAR duo of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, who won the All-Star race at the track last weekend.
But Logano was set back by a pit road penalty and Keselowski could never make a serious challenge.
Hamlin, who won the Xfinity event Saturday, topped the Joe Gibbs Racing entries, with Matt Kenseth in seventh.
WHO’S HOT: Martin Truex Jr. finally cashed in win a victory when he had the most dominant car. Truex locked up a spot in Chase for a Championship and marked himself as a car to beat heading into the summer.
WHO’S NOT: Kyle Busch has suddenly gone cold with his second straight finish in the 30s after spending much of the season in the top five. Busch wound up 33rd at Charlotte after finishing 30th at Dover. He had nine top-five finishes, including three victories, in the first 11 races.
WHAT WRECKS?: NASCAR’s longest race of the season was also among its cleanest, with just four cautions — and one of those was to check tire wear over the first 25 laps. The four caution periods took up just 19 laps, leading to Charlotte records for fastest average speed (160.644 mph) and fastest race (three hours, 44 minutes, eight seconds). Both marks eclipsed records from 2012 (average speed of 1555.687 mph; time of three hours, 51 minutes, 15 seconds)
THEY SAID IT: “I kind of felt like he was playing with us. He was so fast” — Johnson on Truex’s showing.
DID YOU SEE THAT? The biggest wow moments probably came pre-race when the United States military put on a Memorial Day weekend display for the large crowd. There were tanks, soldiers marching down the steps of the stands, a flyover and a paratrooper display.
UP NEXT: Pocono Raceway, June 5. Truex is the defending race winner.
Sunday’s results from the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway (starting position in parentheses):
1. (1) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 400.
2. (8) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 400.
3. (7) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 400.
4. (4) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 400.
5. (5) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 400.
6. (13) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 400.
7. (27) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 400.
8. (12) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 400.
9. (2) Joey Logano, Ford, 400.
10. (14) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 400.
11. (6) Greg Biffle, Ford, 400.
12. (28) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 400.
13. (24) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 400.
14. (25) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 400.
15. (3) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 400.
16. (15) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 399.
17. (11) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 399.
18. (9) Carl Edwards, Toyota, 399.
19. (23) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 399.
20. (18) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 397.
21. (19) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 396.
22. (29) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 395.
23. (26) Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, 395.
24. (21) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 395.
25. (10) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 395.
26. (20) Aric Almirola, Ford, 395.
27. (33) Landon Cassill, Ford, 395.
28. (31) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 395.
29. (30) Brian Scott, Ford, 394.
30. (17) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 394.
31. (35) David Ragan, Toyota, 393.
32. (34) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 393.
33. (16) Kyle Busch, Toyota, Accident, 392.
34. (32) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 391.
35. (36) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 391.
36. (38) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 390.
37. (22) Chris Buescher, Ford, 388.
38. (37) Josh Wise, Chevrolet, 387.
39. (39) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Ford, 382.
40. (40) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, Clutch, 200.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 160.655 mph.
Time of Race: 3 Hours, 44 Minutes, 5 Seconds.
Margin of Victory: 2.572 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 4 for 19 laps.
Lead Changes: 9 among 4 drivers.
Lap Leaders: M. Truex Jr. 1-77; J. Johnson 78-79; M. Truex Jr. 80-164; J. Johnson 165; J. Logano 166; M. Truex Jr. 167-298; P. Menard 299-300; M. Truex Jr. 301-343; J. Johnson 344-345; M. Truex Jr. 346-400.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): M. Truex Jr. 5 times for 392 laps; J. Johnson 3 times for 5 laps; P. Menard 1 time for 2 laps; J. Logano 1 time for 1 lap.
Top 16 in Points: K. Harvick – 457; Kurt Busch – 421; J. Johnson – 409; Kyle Busch – 405; C. Edwards – 404; B. Keselowski – 404; M. Truex Jr. – 381; C. Elliott – 374; J. Logano – 373; M. Kenseth – 347; D. Hamlin – 345; A. Dillon – 344; D. Earnhardt Jr. – 341; J. Mcmurray – 318; . Blaney – 309; R. Newman – 309.
Martin Truex Jr poses with the trophy after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup series auto race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., Sunday, May 29, 2016. (AP Photo/Matthew Bishop)
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KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kyle Busch has seemingly dozens of reasons to despise Kansas Speedway, from the two times he crashed out of Chase races to the innumerable misfortunes in other series.
Now he has one big reason to speak fondly of it.
Busch sailed away from Kevin Harvick after a late wreck collected several of the leaders Saturday night, and finally won a NASCAR Sprint Cup race at one of three tracks that had eluded him.
“I didn’t know we’d have that much speed in our race car. I guess I should have known,” said Busch, who still needs to win at Charlotte and Pocono to knock off every current track in the series. “We had a top-five car in the middle part of the race. We kept making improvements to it, kept making it better.”
Busch won for the third time this season, and gave team owner Joe Gibbs his sixth victory already this season. But this one may have been the sweetest given Busch’s history at Kansas.
“This is a place that’s been tough on me over the years, and probably almost caused me to go into retirement,” Busch said, laughing. “There’s been a lot of rough days at Kansas, that’s for sure.”
Harvick was second after making major changes to his car following a poor qualifying effort. Kurt Busch was third, Matt Kenseth finished fourth and Ryan Blaney wound up fifth.
“You know, it’s our best finish of the year. That’s the bright side,” said Kenseth, who was alongside Busch on the final restart with 19 laps to go. “I thought we were as good as the 18 if we could have had position, but it was tough restarting on that bottom.”
Martin Truex Jr. won his first pole in two years and looked like he’d be the one to finally get the victory that has eluded him at Kansas, drawing away for big leads on every restart.
He still had a comfortable lead entering the final round of scheduled stops with 54 laps to go, but Truex radioed to his team that he had a loose wheel after leaving his stall. He had to come down pit road again and dropped off the lead lap, another late-race gaffe costing him a chance to win.
Truex led 95 laps at Kansas last spring, but fuel and tire strategy conspired left him ninth. His team also made a strategic mistake that cost him earlier this season at Texas.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “Went around 1 and 2 and was like, ‘Damn, the wheel is loose.’ I kept telling myself maybe it’s not. … Frustrating but that’s how it goes.”
Tony Stewart briefly took the lead in his return to the No. 14 full-time, but everything changed when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. slapped the wall moments later. That bunched up the field and ultimately led to the only major wreck after last weekend’s crash-filled race at Talladega.
Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin got sideways going through a corner, and that forced Kyle Larson into the wall. Joey Logano had nowhere to go, slamming into Hamlin and ending both of their nights.
“I was just going for it. We got to win. It’s win or nothing with this type of format, so why not go in there and take a chance?” said Hamlin, who admitted to pressing the issue after two speeding penalties on pit road cost him track position. “I have to get better on pit lane to give us a chance.”
Logano was strong once again after winning two of the past three races at Kansas.
“It’s just racing, the end of a race,” he said. “It kind of stinks, two weeks in a row I’m walking out of the infield care center. … It’s just racing. Things happen.”
Busch elected to stay on the track to protect his position, rather than pit for tires, hoping that the clean air of running in front would pay off. It was a risky gamble by crew chief Adam Stevens, but one that he was willing to make to change his team’s fortunes at Kansas.
“It’s always cool to get to Victory Lane, but to knock off another place we haven’t won at is really special,” Stevens said. “He’s had a really storied career and done a lot of great things, and to help him accomplish one of the things he hadn’t done is really cool.”
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TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) — Nobody needs to be reminded that racing is inherently dangerous. We all know drivers assume the risks. It’s understood that no one forces a driver to compete.
That shoulder-shrug approach doesn’t make the scorecard from Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway any easier to accept.
The delicate line between sport and entertainment was dangerously straddled by 40 drivers roaring along in a pack of cars at 200 mph. When the dust settled, 35 cars had been involved in at least one accident and two cars went airborne. When Kevin Harvick’s car lifted off the track in a last-lap crash, it finally put an end to the chaos.
Yes, driver after driver exited their race car unharmed. Save for some bruises to her arms and legs and soreness when she took her breath, Danica Patrick scrambled to safety following the most frightening crash of her career.
So, yes, we celebrate on Monday that no one was injured, and better yet, no one died in the carnage that was a typical Talladega race.
But all that wrecking came at a price.
The cost of damaged race cars on Sunday neared $10 million in losses across the grid, according to an informal survey Monday by The Associated Press of five top race teams. Within that series-wide estimate, some teams estimated they lost $500,000 per car — total loss situations — while others estimated $250,000 without including any engine damage.
Those losses, the terrifying tumbles taken by Chris Buescher and Matt Kenseth, the hard licks into the wall, the parking-lot effect from a 21-car accident, all of it is accepted as part of the show. Racing at Daytona and Talladega, the only two tracks in NASCAR that require the use of horsepower-sapping restrictor plates to slow the cars, simply is what it is.
That’s all fine and well because everybody knows what they signed up for, right?
Cars should not be going airborne anymore. IndyCar faced this same issue in the buildup to the Indianapolis 500 last year, when three cars took flight in terrifying crashes. Rules were immediately implemented to keep the cars on the track, and IndyCar again issued a mandate in car design for this month’s race.
NASCAR is in the same position and went to work Monday studying the wrecks to see what can be altered to keep cars from lifting off the track.
“We never want to see cars get up in the air,” Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, told AP.
Improved communication between NASCAR, owners and drivers should lead to solutions. O’Donnell said the new collaboration gives NASCAR a new “ability to work with the race teams and their top engineers” on how to keep cars on the track.
Kyle Busch, who broke his leg and foot in a crash at Daytona last year, said after his second-place finish Sunday that he’d rather stay home than participate in plate races. Third-place finisher Austin Dillon admitted: “We all have to do it; I don’t know how many really love it.”
Dillon walked away from a frightening airborne accident on the last lap of last July’s race at Daytona, an incident he said is “not a fun thing to be a part of.” He has faith that NASCAR understands the drivers’ concerns.
“I know NASCAR will put their efforts toward fixing it,” he said. “They’ve made the car safer. That’s the reason why we’re walking away from these crashes. I think as a group, all of us want it to be where we’re not leaving the ground.”
It’s important to put Sunday’s demolition derby in at least a little bit of perspective. Yes, the destruction was unusually high. But the threat of rain played a huge role in the multiple accidents.
Normally, the aggression in plate races doesn’t come until about 30 laps remain and many drivers spend most of the race riding around in the hope they can stay out of trouble to make a late run for the win. They couldn’t wait Sunday because rain could have ended the race with no notice.
It meant the pace was much faster from start to finish.
“It was almost like the entire race was overtime,” O’Donnell said. “Everybody was on the gas each and every lap. There was one point where we had weather 100 yards away, four laps to go until the halfway point and two laps to go in the fuel runs. That certainly produced three-wide racing from start to finish.”
Plate racing isn’t going away anytime soon, though various measures could be taken to reduce the pack element — remove the restrictor-plates, slow the cars, knock down the banking at Daytona and Talladega — nothing should be eliminated from conversation as NASCAR tries to “fix” the issues plaguing the four events each year.
Not everyone is convinced the racing needs to be fixed. Brad Keselowski picked up his fourth Talladega victory and had few complaints after the race.
Of course, he ran up front and ahead of much of the chaos.
“I’m a capitalist,” he said. “There’s people still paying to sit in the stands, there’s sponsors still on the cars, drivers still willing to get in them. Kind of sounds like it’s self-policing, and there’s enough interest to keep going, so we’ll keep going.”
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TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) — Two cars went airborne, 35 were involved in an accident of some kind, and Danica Patrick had the wind knocked out of her in a vicious crash into the wall.
Just another demolition derby at Talladega Superspeedway.
Brad Keselowski won the crash-fest Sunday that was dominated by multiple wrecks that caused millions of dollars in damage to race teams. It was Keselowski’s fourth career win at Talladega and second victory of the season, and ended Joe Gibbs Racing’s streak of four consecutive victories.
“Crazy day. Somehow we managed to stay ahead of or out of all the chaos,” Keselowski said. “That’s how Talladega goes. Sometimes we run here and everybody kind of lines up against the wall, and sometimes we come here and it’s crazy side by side, wreck ’em up, flip ’em.
“I think that’s kind of the allure to coming here because you don’t know what you’re going to get.”
That’s not entirely true about Talladega, which more times than not turns into a mess of wrecked race cars.
Keselowski said that’s just part of restrictor-plate racing at the 2.66-mile superspeedway.
“Racing has always been that balance of daredevils and chess players, this has always been more of a daredevil-type track,” said Keselowski.
Chris Buescher’s car flipped three times in an early crash, and Matt Kenseth was turned upside down in the waning laps. In Kenseth’s accident, Patrick hit hard into an energy-absorbing wall that that seemed to buckle upon impact. She appeared shaken after the hit and hustled out of her burning car.
“I have a pretty decent bruise on my arm and my foot, and my head feels like I hit a wall at 200,” she said. “My chest hurts when I breathe.”
There were 21- and 12-car accidents in the final 28 laps. And, as Keselowski crossed the finish line, another wreck in the back of the pack punctuated the sloppy day. NASCAR’s box score showed 35 of the 40 cars were involved in some sort of accident.
Only 21 of the 40 cars finished on the lead lap, and 12 cars were ruled out of the race.
Second-place finisher Kyle Busch said he looked in his rearview mirror at one point and only saw four cars without some sort of damage
“I hate it. I’d much rather be at home,” said Busch, the reigning Sprint Cup Series champion. “I’ve got a win. I don’t need to be here.”
Austin Dillon finished third and said he enjoyed the race, even though it was nerve-racking. Dillon was in his own horrific crash at Daytona last July and said the style of racing at restrictor-plate tracks creates an atmosphere of danger.
“We all have to do it. I don’t know how many really love it,” Dillon said. “I know our mom’s, wives and girlfriends don’t like it. We don’t like to be part of crashes. If people are cheering for crashes, man, it’s not a good thing.”
The pace of Sunday’s race was up a tick because of potential rain that could have shortened the event from its scheduled 180 laps. Once the race hit the halfway point and was official, drivers began their charge to the front because they couldn’t avoid waiting and rain suddenly ending the event.
Patrick, who was inside the top 10 when she was hit by another car and turned into Kenseth, who went airborne, said the potential rain intensified the racing.
“We all raced to the halfway, then we all raced to the rain that was coming, then we all raced to the end,” she said. “It was like the whole race, you spent it racing like it was the end. There was no moments to relax at all. I’m sure that kind of expanded people’s comfort zones at the end of the race because we were already so used to running close.
“Some people took it over the edge.”
Other incidents in Sunday’s race:
TYPICAL TALLADEGA: Not every driver was alarmed at all the accidents.
Jamie McMurray, one of the better plate races in the series, thought Sunday was pretty typical.
“Everyone is pretty calm until we get to halfway because we all want to get to halfway, and then it got a little bit wild after that,” he said. “But it’s just plate racing. When you look back at all of these restrictor plate races, you have a lot of wrecks that just don’t happen. And today we had a lot of wrecks, and they happened.”
AMELIA IS DESTROYED: Defending race winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. brought his favorite car, named “Amelia” to Talladega in search of his first win of the season. But he wrecked on lap 50 and had to go to the garage. He eventually returned to the track, and his steering wheel mysteriously came off in his hand. He had to steer the car himself with his hand on the steering column as he put the wheel back on. Then he was collected in a wreck with Carl Edwards. He finished last.
“Hell, I’m going home. I’m done,” he said. “I think we need to park the car for a while, too.”
EDWARDS ENDS STREAK: Edwards was seeking his third consecutive victory, but came up short when he suddenly crashed his Toyota.
“Something just let go there,” he said. “We had something torn up there, drove down into turn one and I just felt the right front fall down and that was it. You’re kind of just along for the ride.”
Edwards scored back-to-back wins at Bristol and Richmond — where he bumped Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch out of his way on the last lap — and was hoping to make it three straight with a Talladega win.
He instead finished 39th.
STEWART’S SHORT DAY: Tony Stewart turned his car over to Ty Dillon on the first caution of the race.
Stewart drove the first 52 laps before getting out as a precautionary measure. He just returned last week from a back injury that sidelined him the first eight races of the season.
Dillon drove the car to a sixth-place finish, which gets credited to Stewart.
WHAT’S NEXT: A Saturday night race next week at Kansas Speedway. Jimmie Johnson won the race a year ago, and Joey Logano was victorious at Kansas last fall.
1. (7) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 188 laps, 45 points.
2. (17) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 188, 40.
3. (2) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 188, 38.
4. (30) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 188, 37.
5. (1) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 188, 37.
6. (14) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 188, 35.
7. (34) Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, 188, 34.
8. (18) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 188, 33.
9. (19) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 188, 32.
10. (13) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 188, 32.
11. (32) Landon Cassill, Ford, 188, 30.
12. (33) Michael Waltrip, Toyota, 188, 30.
13. (12) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 188, 28.
14. (28) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 188, 28.
15. (29) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 188, 27.
16. (6) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 188, 25.
17. (39) David Gilliland, Ford, 188, 24.
18. (36) Cole Whitt, Toyota, 188, 24.
19. (26) Bobby Labonte, Ford, 188, 23.
20. (16) Greg Biffle, Ford, 188, 21.
21. (31) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 188, 20.
22. (5) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 182, 19.
23. (4) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, accident, 180, 19.
24. (37) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, accident, 180, 18.
25. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, accident, 180, 17.
26. (10) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, accident, 180, 15.
27. (23) Aric Almirola, Ford, accident, 180, 15.
28. (15) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 173, 14.
29. (24) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 173, 13.
30. (21) Brian Scott, Ford, 172, 11.
31. (8) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 170, 11.
32. (25) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 168, 9.
33. (20) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 166, 8.
34. (40) David Ragan, Toyota, engine, 151, 8.
35. (9) Carl Edwards, Toyota, accident, 109, 6.
36. (35) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, engine, 98, 5.
37. (27) Chris Buescher, Ford, accident, 95, 4.
38. (38) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, accident, 94, 3.
39. (11) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, accident, 82, 2.
40. (3) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, accident, 63, 1.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 140.046 mph.
Time of Race: 3 hours, 34 minutes, 15 seconds.
Margin of Victory: Under Caution.
Caution Flags: 10 for 41 laps.
Lead Changes: 37 among 17 drivers.
Lap Leaders: C.Elliott 1-13; M.Kenseth 14-28; C.Elliott 29-38; M.Waltrip 39; Ky.Busch 40-51; A.Almirola 52; A.Allmendinger 53; D.Ragan 54-55; M.Waltrip 56; M.Kenseth 57-71; B.Keselowski 72-82; D.Hamlin 83; B.Keselowski 84; D.Hamlin 85-88; B.Keselowski 89-96; D.Patrick 97-99; K.Harvick 100-102; C.Elliott 103-106; K.Harvick 107-108; T.Bayne 109-115; K.Harvick 116-117; T.Bayne 118; K.Harvick 119-120; T.Bayne 121-128; B.Labonte 129; R.Newman 130; C.Whitt 131; T.Bayne 132-135; K.Larson 136-137; T.Bayne 138; K.Larson 139-145; M.Kenseth 146-152; B.Labonte 153; M.Kenseth 154-155; T.Bayne 156; B.Keselowski 157-165; J.Logano 166-171; B.Keselowski 172-188.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): B.Keselowski, 5 times for 46 laps; M.Kenseth, 4 times for 39 laps; C.Elliott, 3 times for 27 laps; T.Bayne, 6 times for 22 laps; Ky.Busch, 1 time for 12 laps; K.Harvick, 4 times for 9 laps; K.Larson, 2 times for 9 laps; J.Logano, 1 time for 6 laps; D.Hamlin, 2 times for 5 laps; D.Patrick, 1 time for 3 laps; M.Waltrip, 2 times for 2 laps; B.Labonte, 2 times for 2 laps; D.Ragan, 1 time for 2 laps; A.Allmendinger, 1 time for 1 lap; C.Whitt, 1 time for 1 lap; A.Almirola, 1 time for 1 lap; R.Newman, 1 time for 1 lap.
Wins: Ky.Busch, 2; C.Edwards, 2; J.Johnson, 2; B.Keselowski, 2; D.Hamlin, 1; K.Harvick, 1.
Top 16 in Points: 1. K.Harvick, 351; 2. Ky.Busch, 342; 3. C.Edwards, 337; 4. J.Johnson, 329; 5. J.Logano, 316; 6. Ku.Busch, 312; 7. B.Keselowski, 300; 8. D.Earnhardt Jr., 279; 9. M.Truex Jr., 274; 10. A.Dillon, 272; 11. C.Elliott, 271; 12. D.Hamlin, 269; 13. J.McMurray, 261; 14. A.Allmendinger, 232; 15. M.Kenseth, 231; 16. T.Bayne, 228.
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Racing doesn’t get much better than a bump-and-run on the final lap for the victory. It’s what Carl Edwards did to teammate Kyle Busch at Richmond International Raceway in what NASCAR says was the first last-lap pass for a win in track history.
It was dramatic, controversial and likely set the stage for tense team meetings this week at Joe Gibbs Racing.
Was it enough, though, to build any positive goodwill for NASCAR?
“I think (Sunday) was a great day for the sport,” said winning crew chief Dave Rogers of Edwards’ decision to nudge his teammate out of the way to win the race. “It would be very disappointing to our fans if Joe imposed a team order and told us, ‘Hey, have a parade instead of a race.'”
It’s hard to say with NASCAR’s bipolar fan base. Most weeks, the majority of the fans can’t stand Busch and use social media to vow they’ll never watch another race until Busch is banned from competing in the second-tier Xfinity Series. On Monday, though, it was Dale Earnhardt Jr. on social media smacking back at fans complaining that Edwards’ move was dirty.
“In my book it’s ok to lean on a guy for a W. Not ok to put them in the fence. Lean on ’em, but don’t ruin their day,” Earnhardt replied on Twitter to a fan who asked him what he would have done in Edwards’ situation.
The only people who should be upset are Busch and his race team. This is the kind of racing fans are supposed to embrace, a driver putting it all out there and fearlessly moving the reigning Sprint Cup champion out of his way for a trip to victory lane.
If there’s an issue, it should only exist inside the walls at JGR, where the team owner can navigate any potential hard feelings.
But this is the new norm in NASCAR, where no race is good enough, no finish exciting enough, to satisfy this fan base.
That’s a serious problem for NASCAR.
How did this happen? Well, it wasn’t overnight and fixing this problem won’t be fast, either.
A combination of bad racing and boardroom decisions made by NASCAR has alienated many hardcore fans and turned off the casual observer. The races are too long, the 11-month schedule oversaturated. Some fans love the playoff-style Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, others despise it and long for the good ‘ol days.
More than anything, though, it seems the themes that most ignite the fan base are all off-track issues.
Die-hards were disgusted when NASCAR chairman Brian France said he didn’t want Confederate flags at races anymore. Then he alienated a different portion of the fan base when he endorsed Donald Trump for president. The prayer given before this month’s race at Texas by “Duck Commander” founder Phil Robertson was cringe-worthy to almost everyone but conservatives.
And now, the sport just spent a week debating lug nuts and freedom of speech.
NASCAR’s cutback on pit road officials meant the series could no longer ensure every team tightened all five lug nuts after every tire change. Earnhardt, Greg Biffle and crew chief Rodney Childers were among the handful of participants who warned of the danger in allowing teams to skip lug nuts in favor of a faster pit stop.
Then Tony Stewart gave his two cents — warning of potential injury if NASCAR doesn’t step in — and the series promptly fined him $35,000 under its new behavioral policy. Few believe it was anything but retribution from France over Stewart’s direct attacks on him over the years.
So off they all went to Richmond, where Stewart made his return after missing the first eight races with a back injury. His return was overshadowed by his fine, by the Driver Council’s decision to pay the $35,000 for him and, of course, by lug nuts. As Stewart was getting ready to race for the first time this season, a big and welcome headline for NASCAR, he was on national TV talking about lug nuts and his fine.
It’s been one public relations disaster after another this year for NASCAR, which has chosen to vaguely answer or not comment at all on issue after issue. All of this sideshow nonsense has only heightened the animosity of the fan base.
NASCAR desperately needs to find a way to stop shifting attention away from its stars, from its improving product and from its rivalries. It would go a long way toward making Edwards’ move on Sunday appreciated as “quintessential NASCAR” racing, as France has stated. Right now, though, it delivered just another opportunity for its bitter and jaded fans to complain.
This story has been updated to correct second fine reference to $35,000. Carl Edwards does a back flip off his car after winning the Sprint Cup auto race at Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Va., Sunday, April 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Chet Strange)
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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Carl Edwards had been grinding for 30 laps, doing everything he could to catch Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch in a two-way breakaway from the pack at Richmond International Raceway.
When he finally caught him on the last lap Sunday, and in the final turn, he had no time to think about what would be the prudent thing to do. Instead, Edwards focused on the reason they are racing: to win.
Edwards bumped his sometimes-volatile teammate off his racing line in the last turn and passed him to win his second consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, and the fourth in a row for the Gibbs racing stable.
NASCAR said it was the first last-lap pass for a victory in the history of the premier series at the track, a span of 120 races.
“I wish it was anybody but my teammate that we had to race like that with, but big picture to me is we’ve both got some wins, we’re in the Chase, and it’s fun to have to race your teammate for the win,” Edwards said. “If the roles were reversed, I would have expected him to bump me the same way.”
Then in a bid to throw a bone to Busch, whose car was sponsored by Banfield Pet Hospital, he said: “If my cat ever gets sick, I don’t care how much it costs, I will take it to the Banfield Pet Hospital, if that helps.”
Gibbs said there’s no game plan for how to handle the next team meeting.
“What you do is you just start out and work your way through it, and that’s what we’ll do,” he said.
Edwards, who had fallen nearly 1.5 seconds behind after a restart with 36 laps to go, gradually ran him down, catching him on the final lap. Then he slipped underneath Busch, a master blocker in late-race situations, and nudged him just enough to allow Edwards to get inside him for his second consecutive victory. It was also the fourth in a row for the Gibbs stable, and fifth in nine races.
“Kyle’s an amazing teammate and it’s like he got really slow there at the end,” Edwards said. “Something happened that last lap, it’s like his rear tires went off or something, and he went down into (Turn) one and I dove it in and I got to him, and I thought, ‘Man, I’ve got something here.’ Then he went to get down to the bottom to park it in three and four and I’d already decided to go down there, so I thought, ‘Man, I’m going to give him a little nudge.’
“We’ve both got wins. We’re racing for fun and getting these trophies. Just an awesome day.”
After falling so far behind, Edwards was surprised to find himself in position to challenge for the victory.
“Man, I didn’t think we had anything. Kyle was just so good for that run. I was just doing everything I could. He never spun his tires,” he said. “If Dave (crew chief Rogers) hadn’t screamed at me to just go get him, I don’t know if I would have dove it in there that hard.”
Busch seemed less than amused after being denied his third victory in the last four races.
“We just kind of gave it up a little bit there on the last lap, but I guess that’s racing and we move on,” he said. “… We had a really great car. … We were fast, maybe not as good as Carl was on the long runs, but we did everything right, everything we were supposed to do.”
Jimmie Johnson finished third, follow by Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne and pole-sitter Kevin Harvick. Gibbs placed all four of its drivers in the top seven, with Denny Hamlin sixth and Matt Kenseth seventh.
The race was the first scheduled for during the day at Richmond since 1997, and the racing made a huge fan of Johnson.
“We had multiple lanes that laid the rubber in the race track and we didn’t have all those marbles built up on the outside, where it really limited your opportunities up high,” he said. “It was fun. The cars were slipping and sliding; there was a ton of fall-off. I enjoyed the long runs. I really like sizing-up guys that I’m racing with and seeing how that works out. And then, at the end we had a bunch of short runs.”
Kahne was trying to hang on to a good finish at the end and missed the drama ahead of him.
“I didn’t watch. I wish I would have. It sounded like a great battle,” he said.
Edwards dominated the first half of the race, leading 120 of the first 200 laps, and he continued to lead until Kevin Harvick slipped underneath him with 170 laps to go. Edwards faded for a time, but wound up leading seven times for a race-high 151 laps. The race featured 23 lead changes, the most here since 2007.
Seven other drivers also led, with Busch, Harvick, Kurt Busch and Johnson also leading for at least 44 laps.
Notes: Johnson has three career victories at Richmond, but none since September 2008. … Gibbs cars have won five of the first nine races. … The race went green for the first 157 laps, the longest green-flag run to start a race at Richmond since 1979, and only the fourth time in the last 47 races in the premier series on the 0.75-mile oval that the first 100 laps were run caution-free.
Lap length: .75 miles
(Start position in parentheses)
1. (4) Carl Edwards, Toyota, 400 laps, 45 points.
2. (9) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 400, 40.
3. (3) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 400, 39.
4. (8) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 400, 37.
5. (1) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 400, 37.
6. (5) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 400, 36.
7. (13) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 400, 35.
8. (2) Joey Logano, Ford, 400, 33.
9. (22) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 400, 32.
10. (7) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 400, 32.
11. (6) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 400, 31.
12. (23) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 400, 29.
13. (16) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 400, 28.
14. (19) Greg Biffle, Ford, 400, 27.
15. (15) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 400, 26.
16. (27) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 400, 25.
17. (17) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 400, 24.
18. (14) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 400, 23.
19. (18) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 400, 22.
20. (11) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 400, 21.
21. (24) Aric Almirola, Ford, 400, 20.
22. (26) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 400, 19.
23. (30) David Ragan, Toyota, 400, 18.
24. (21) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 400, 17.
25. (10) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 400, 16.
26. (12) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 400, 15.
27. (28) Landon Cassill, Ford, 399, 14.
28. (29) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 399, 13.
29. (25) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 399, 12.
30. (36) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 399, 11.
31. (32) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 399, 10.
32. (34) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 399, 9.
33. (39) Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, 398, 8.
34. (33) Chris Buescher, Ford, 396, 7.
35. (20) Brian Scott, Ford, 395, 6.
36. (40) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 394, 5.
37. (37) Ryan Ellis, Toyota, 393, 0.
38. (38) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Ford, 392, 3.
39. (31) Josh Wise, Chevrolet, 390, 2.
40. (35) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 390, 1.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 97.070 mph.
Time of Race: 3 hours, 5 minutes, 26 seconds.
Margin of Victory: 0.675 seconds.
Caution Flags: 8 for 49 laps.
Lead Changes: 23 among 8 drivers.
Lap Leaders: K.Harvick 1-21; J.Johnson 22-63; C.Edwards 64; J.Johnson 65; C.Edwards 66-89; D.Hamlin 90; J.Johnson 91; M.Kenseth 92-93; C.Edwards 94-157; Ky.Busch 158-168; C.Edwards 169-196; Ky.Busch 197; C.Edwards 198-229; K.Harvick 230-270; B.Keselowski 271-273; K.Harvick 274; B.Keselowski 275-277; Ku.Busch 278-286; Ky.Busch 287-314; Ku.Busch 315-360; Ky.Busch 361-363; C.Edwards 364; Ky.Busch 365-399; C.Edwards 400.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): C.Edwards, 7 times for 151 laps; Ky.Busch, 5 times for 78 laps; K.Harvick, 3 times for 63 laps; Ku.Busch, 2 times for 55 laps; J.Johnson, 3 times for 44 laps; B.Keselowski, 2 times for 6 laps; M.Kenseth, 1 time for 2 laps; D.Hamlin, 1 time for 1 lap.
Wins: Ky.Busch, 2; C.Edwards, 2; J.Johnson, 2; D.Hamlin, 1; K.Harvick, 1; B.Keselowski, 1.
Top 16 in Points: 1. C.Edwards, 331; 2. K.Harvick, 324; 3. J.Johnson, 310; 4. Ky.Busch, 302; 5. J.Logano, 299; 6. Ku.Busch, 279; 7. D.Earnhardt Jr., 278; 8. D.Hamlin, 258; 9. B.Keselowski, 255; 10. M.Truex Jr., 246; 11. C.Elliott, 234; 12. A.Dillon, 234; 13. J.McMurray, 224; 14. K.Kahne, 222; 15. M.Kenseth, 212; 16. R.Newman, 205.
Carl Edwards celebrates after winning the Sprint Cup auto race at Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Va., Sunday, April 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Chet Strange)