Kyle Busch

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NASCAR: Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart elected to IMS Hall of Fame

(PhatzRadio Sports / AP)    —-   Five-time Brickyard winner Jeff Goron and two-time winner Tony Stewart have been elected to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame, marking the first time a member of the NASCAR community has been given the honor.

Starting with this year’s ballot, which was due in February, voting for the IMS Hall of Fame was expanded to include members of the NASCAR and Formula 1 communities that “have made major contributions to auto racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

Gordon and Stewart were chosen from a ballot of 14 nominees by a panel of auto racing journalists, participants and historians.

Gordon, who attended Tri-West High School in Pittsboro, Indiana, won 93 races in NASCAR’s top series, including the Daytona 500 three times. He won the NASCAR series championship four times following a career in USAC open-wheel racing where he was the 1990 national Midget series champion and 1991 Silver Crown titlist. He added an overall win in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona with Wayne Taylor Racing in 2017.

Stewart, from Columbus, Indiana, won the national Midget series championship in 1994 and the Triple Crown (Silver Crown, Sprint Car, Midget) in 1995. He won three IndyCar events and the 1996-97 series championship. After moving to NASCAR, Stewart won 49 races in Cup series and three series championships.

The 2018 inductees were announced on “Founder’s Day,” the 109th anniversary of the day the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Company was officially formed. They also are the first to be enshrined under the Hall’s new name and scope, which includes the stars of the Brickyard 400 and United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis for the first time. The induction ceremony will be held May 24.

“We are thrilled that the first class of inductees with our new name and election criteria honor two drivers who mean so much to fans in Central Indiana and around the world” said Tony George, president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Foundation.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Famewas founded in 1952 as the Auto Racing Hall of Fame under the auspices of the Contest Board of the American Automobile Association (AAA). The Hall of Fame was moved to the original Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum under the direction of then-Speedway president Anton “Tony” Hulman Jr. in 1962.


Another honor for “Lone Star J.R.”

Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Johnny Rutherford will be honored in April by the Road Racing Drivers Club prior to the IndyCar Series Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

It will mark the 10th straight year the organization has feted some of the greatest drivers in open-wheel racing. Previous honorees were Dan Gurney, Parnelli Jones, Roger Penske, Jim Hall, Brian Redman, Mario Andretti, Bobby Unser, George Follmer and Emerson Fittipaldi.

“Johnny has always been a tough, accomplished racer on the track and an absolute gentleman off the track,” former IndyCar star Bobby Rahal, who serves as RRDC president, said in a release. “He always has time to sign an autograph or pose for a selfie. He’s been the ultimate ambassador for our sport.”

Born in 1938 in Coffeyville, Kansas, Rutherford began his racing career in modified stock cars in 1959 and he won his first NASCAR-sanctioned race in 1963, capturing one of the twin 125-mile qualifying races for the Daytona 500 driving for Smokey Yunick. That victory made him the youngest-ever NASCAR winner at that point.

Rutherford also became a driver to watch in the open-wheel ranks, especially on dirt, when he drove his No. 9 to the 1965 USAC Sprint Car Championship. His IndyCar breakthrough came a decade later when he drove for McLaren and delivered Indy 500 wins in 1974 and 1976 and finished second in 1975.

In 1980, Rutherford raced Jim Hall’s “Yellow Submarine” Chaparral, winning the Indy 500 again and capturing the series championship. His victory in the Indy 500 made him one of only nine drivers to win the storied race three times (A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears are the only four-time winners).

Rutherford also was an accomplished road racer and drove a Porsche 935 to second in the 1978 Daytona 24 Hours.

RRDC was formed in 1952 as a way to give champion drivers a say in their sport, particularly in the areas of safety. Today, it mentors new drivers at both the amateur and professional levels, and its reach has been impressive, especially since the club started a free on-line training seminar dubbed

The site has featured RRDC members and other industry experts in videos covering subjects from physical and mental preparation to driving techniques, driver safety, to car setup and sponsorship. To date, the club says more than 550,000 racers in 171 countries have viewed nearly 3 million video tutorials in 70 languages.

Martin Truex Jr. grabs 1st win of NASCAR season at Fontana

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FONTANA, Calif. (AP) — Martin Truex Jr. saw nothing but clean air and green flags down the stretch in his first victory of the new NASCAR Cup season.

Truex didn’t get much of a look at Kevin Harvick, whose bid for four straight wins was ruined by an early crash at Fontana.

So even while Truex’s Furniture Row Racing Toyota team celebrated, it was a wee bit disappointed not to get a duel with the early-season king.

“I think we would have had something for him today,” team owner Barney Visser said.

Truex roared to victory at Fontana on Sunday, beating Kyle Larson by 11 seconds to claim the first win of the season for last year’s series champion.

Truex won both stages before rolling to the checkered flag on his 16th career victory and his first since that glorious championship day at Homestead last November. His first career victory at Fontana even moved Truex into the overall points lead, thanks to Harvick’s woes.

Harvick dragged his damaged car to a 35th-place finish after early contact with Larson ruined his day. But after dominating at Auto Club Speedway, Truex’s team was no longer certain Harvick has the fastest ride in the field.

“It just feels good to win,” said Truex, who became the third driver to win from the pole at Fontana. “I don’t really worry about who else is fast. Obviously (Harvick) has been quick. They’ve got a great team, and Kevin is an awesome driver. But as we’ve seen today, we can put together a run as well.”

Truex took the lead for good with 32 laps left by getting past Kyle Busch, who finished third. Brad Keselowski was fourth.

“People kept asking, ‘When are you going to win again?'” said Truex, who led 125 laps overall. “‘When are you going to win any stages?’ Well, here you go.”

When Truex got a series of post-race questions about Harvick, the defending champ suggested that Furniture Row proved early on that it can hang with Stewart-Haas Racing.

“That first pit stop was under green, and he came in pretty close (to me),” Truex said. “We left pit road, and I drove away from him. That was the only gauge I really had of that. … I’m sure we’ll have plenty of chances to race each other throughout the rest of the season.”

Here are more things to know about the race at Fontana:

KEVIN’S SMACK: Harvick’s bid to become the 14th driver ever to win four straight races ended when he hit the wall after side-to-side contact with Larson on the 37th lap. Harvick’s flapping bumper was the most obvious problem, but he made a nice save down the track to avoid an interior wall.

Harvick took the blame for the mistake.

“I went down to side-draft and (Larson) was coming up and we touched, and it just knocked the thing to the right and spun out,” Harvick said. “I don’t know that it’s his fault. I think that’s my fault for coming down the racetrack right there and trying to side-draft, and then as we touch, it just came back up the racetrack. I was just trying to get a little too much right there.”

Harvick’s car was repaired, and he managed to earn two standings points. Harvick had won in Atlanta, Las Vegas and Phoenix before arriving in his home state for an attempt to become the second driver in this century to win four straight.

CLEAN SWEEP: Truex won both stages and a race for the third time in his career. He also accomplished the feat at Las Vegas and Chicagoland during his championship 2017 season. “I would have liked to be one spot better, but I couldn’t even see Martin,” said Larson, the race’s defending champion.

JJ IN 9TH: Six-time Fontana champ Jimmie Johnson finished ninth for his first top-10 finish of the season, ending a 10-race skid outside the top 10 — the worst such stretch of his career. Johnson’s winless streak reached 28 races, also his longest in a career that began in 2001.

BACK AND FORTH: Truex and Busch traded the lead during the final stage, but Busch had a problematic pit stop that left his car handling poorly. Truex passed Busch for good with 32 laps to go. Busch was less than pleased afterward.

WHO’S HOT: Larson didn’t let that early contact stop him from recording his best finish in 13 races since last season.

WHO’S NOT: Trevor Bayne’s day ended on the 108th lap when he smacked the wall.

UP NEXT: Martinsville on March 25.



Sunday from the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway (starting position in parentheses):

1. (1) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 200 laps, 60 points.

2. (3) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 2043.

3. (2) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 200, 51.

4. (11) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 200, 49.

5. (6) Joey Logano, Ford, 200, 45.

6. (25) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 200, 39.

7. (4) Erik Jones, Toyota, 200, 39.

8. (8) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 200, 29.

9. (33) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 200, 38.

10. (5) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 200, 27.

11. (26) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 199, 30.

12. (27) Aric Almirola, Ford, 199, 25.

13. (28) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 199, 24.

14. (7) Kurt Busch, Ford, 199, 27.

15. (29) William Byron, Chevrolet, 199, 23.

16. (31) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 199, 21.

17. (15) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 199, 20.

18. (16) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, 199, 19.

19. (14) Paul Menard, Ford, 199, 18.

20. (19) Darrell Wallace Jr, Chevrolet, 199, 17.

21. (9) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 199, 16.

22. (32) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 199, 15.

23. (30) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 199, 14.

24. (34) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 199, 13.

25. (21) David Ragan, Ford, 199, 12.

26. (22) Michael McDowell, Ford, 199, 11.

27. (17) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 198, 10.

28. (37) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 198, 9.

29. (36) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 198, 0.

30. (12) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 197, 7.

31. (18) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 196, 6.

32. (20) Gray Gaulding, Toyota, 194, 5.

33. (35) Timmy Hill, Chevrolet, 193, 0.

34. (24) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 193, 3.

35. (10) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 191, 2.

36. (23) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 189, 1.

37. (13) Trevor Bayne, Ford, accident, 108, 1.


Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 147.528 mph.

Time of Race: 2 hours, 42 minutes, 41 seconds.

Margin of Victory: 11.685 Seconds seconds.

Caution Flags: 5 for 21 laps.

Lead Changes: 16 among 7 drivers.

Lap Leaders: M.Truex 1-10. Ky.Busch 11-28. J.McMurray 29. Ky.Busch 30. M.Truex 31-63. J.Logano 64-72. M.Truex 73-89. Ky.Busch 90-93. M.Truex 94-123. Ky.Busch 124-130. K.Kahne 131. W.Byron 132. Ky.Busch 133-160. M.Truex 161-163. D.Hamlin 164. Ky.Busch 165-168. M.Truex 169-200

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): M.Truex, 6 times for 119 laps. Ky.Busch, 6 times for 56 laps. J.Logano, 1 time for 8 laps. W.Byron, 1 time for 0 laps. D.Hamlin, 1 time for 0 laps. K.Kahne, 1 time for 0 laps. J.McMurray, 1 time for 0 laps.

Wins: K.Harvick, 3. A.Dillon, 1. M.Truex, 1.

Top 16 in Points: 1. M.Truex, 216. 2. Ky.Busch, 207. 3. J.Logano, 197. 4. B.Keselowski, 183. 5. R.Blaney, 181. 6. D.Hamlin, 176. 7. K.Larson, 174. 8. K.Harvick, 170. 9. C.Bowyer, 155. 10. A.Almirola, 148. 11. Ku.Busch, 144. 12. A.Dillon, 141. 13. E.Jones, 132. 14. R.Newman, 117. 15. A.Bowman, 115. 16. P.Menard, 115.

Truex claims 17th NASCAR Cup pole in Fontana

FONTANA, Calif. (AP) — Martin Truex Jr. claimed the pole for the NASCAR Cup series race in Fontana after a qualifying session in which 13 drivers didn’t complete a lap.

Truex won back-to-back poles for the first time in his career Friday, following up his pole in Phoenix with another speedy performance.

He turned a lap at 186.567 mph in his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota, claiming his 17th career pole on the weathered 2 miles of asphalt at Auto Club Speedway.

“Not a perfect lap by any means, but we did what we had to do today,” said Truex, who earned the pole at Fontana for the first time.

Kyle Busch was second in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota at 186.437 mph, and defending Fontana champion Kyle Larson was third. Erik Jones is fourth and Austin Dillon is fifth.

But only 24 cars recorded a qualifying attempt in the opening round after 13 failed to clear pre-qualifying inspection in time.

Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer and Chase Elliott were among the drivers who will start from the back. All four Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets didn’t turn a lap.

Truex was the only driver who improved his time in the final session of qualifying.

Here are more things to know about qualifying for the fifth NASCAR Cup race of the season:

STILL FAST: Kevin Harvick will start 10th when he attempts to win his fourth consecutive race early in the season. His rivals shouldn’t get too excited, however: Harvick set the track qualifying speed record at 188.744 mph in the first round in his Stewart-Haas Racing Ford.

SILVER LINING: The drivers who didn’t record a lap will start from the back Sunday, but they’ll be on sticker tires. That matters on a track like Fontana. “It’s a huge advantage on that first run, especially if it goes long,” said Truex, who got a similar edge last month in Atlanta. “In my mind, if you’re not probably in the top four, you’re probably better off being 25th. It’s going to be a big deal. Hopefully we can get out front and get a big lead early, or get some clean air and get separated.”

LET IT GO: Busch doesn’t think anyone should be too hard on the cars that failed to record a lap, because every team is still working on learning the finer points of NASCAR’s new rules. “This is a whole new system,” Busch said. “This is our (fifth) week on it. You’ve got to give them a little more time.”

HENDRICK ZERO: Jeff Andrews, the vice president of competition for Hendrick, said the team’s cars all had trouble with an issue relating to the rear decklid. “They were all similar, in the same area of the car,” Andrews said. “We’ve got to go back. We have to talk internally and talk with NASCAR. We felt like we were making changes in the area affected, and we were not seeing the results when we went back through (inspection).”

GOOD START: Busch’s result is particularly important with Toyota Racing Development headquartered in nearby Orange County. “The guys in Costa Mesa, they always put this one on the calendar,” Busch said. “They always want to come out here and perform well.”


More AP auto racing:

NASCAR – Phoenix takeaways: Kevin Harvick promotes short-track racing; Fords keep flying

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports)    —    AVONDALE, Ariz. — Five takeaways from Sunday’s TicketGuardian 500 at ISM Raceway as teams prepare for the third and final stop on the West Coast swing at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. this weekend:

HARVICK GOES SHORT-TRACKING: Next up for Sunday winner Kevin Harvick is Kern County Speedway.

Harvick is scheduled to race Thursday night at the half-mile Kern County track (near his hometown of Bakersfield, Calif.) in a NASCAR K&N Pro Series race. It’s a one-off “fun” race for Harvick, who left Bakersfield for national racing stardom, but it also is part of his mission to boost local short-track motorsports.

After winning at ISM Sunday, Harvick gave a spirited endorsement of short-track racing, saying grass-roots tracks form a major support base of fans for major-league racing. He also criticized ISM track management for no longer scheduling the Copper Classic race, for many years a favorite “big track” race for regional short-track drivers.

“I’ve been mad at Sperber (ISM president Bryan Sperber) here for a couple years now because he won’t have the K&N cars come race here because it doesn’t help his budget,” Harvick said. “In the end, without those grassroots fans, those grassroots people, coming and being able to race here, whether it fits your budget or not, 10 years from now you better hope your ass has some people that will sit in the stands up here wanting to watch these races at your short tracks because those are your hardcore fans.

“One of the best things that happened for racing … was when we had the Copper Classic here. We had midgets, sprint cars. Didn’t matter how many people sat in the grandstands. As competitors, this was their Daytona. On the West Coast, this is what we thought our Daytona 500 was. This is where everybody wanted to race.”

FORDS FLYING: To add to the significance of Harvick’s third consecutive win Sunday, his Stewart-Haas Racing Ford teammates roared home in close formation behind him.

Clint Bowyer finished sixth, Aric Almirola seventh and Kurt Busch 10th, giving SHR almost half of the top 10 and leading team co-owner Tony Stewart to say the team is rolling along at its best level ever.

“It just shows the strength of having four really good teammates that are giving four valid sets of information that they can all feed off of and work off of,” Stewart said. “It just seems like this group of these guys really work well together.”

Harvick specifically mentioned the input of new SHR teammate Almirola, who replaced Danica Patrick in the No. 10 car.

NO. 4 SEEKING NO. 4: Harvick would join some select company if he runs his winning streak to four in Sunday’s Cup race at Auto Club Speedway.

Only 12 drivers have won four in a row in Cup history. Among them are such standouts as Richard Petty, Bobby Allison, David Pearson, Dale Earnhardt Sr., Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson — all present or future Hall-of-Famers.

If Harvick gets four, the next goal on the list would be tying Allison, who won five in a row in the summer of 1971.

Petty owns the all-time winning streak record of 10.

JOHNSON STILL GRINDING: Sunday was another sour race day for Jimmie Johnson.

The seven-time champion finished 14th, leaving him without a top-10 finish four races into the season.

“We certainly made the car better throughout the course of the weekend,” Johnson said. “We got up to eighth and then had some pit strategy kind of work against us and fell back into the teens again, and it’s just so stinking hard to pass.  I think if we could have stayed up there in that top 10 where we were, we would have finished there, but once we got mired back and had to start all over again, it was just a long grind.”

TOYOTAS TRAILING: Toyota won the Cup driving championship last year with Martin Truex Jr.’s eight-win season, but the manufacturer is 0-for-4 one month into 2018.

Truex, a master of stage racing last season, is third in series points but has no stage wins through four races.


Follow Hembree on Twitter @mikehembree

NASCAR: Harvick channels anger, races to 3rd straight win

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AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Kevin Harvick knows how to get around ISM Raceway — and channel his anger.

He needed both skills Sunday to drive away with his third straight NASCAR Cup Series victory and record-extending ninth at the mile oval southwest of the Phoenix.

“I’m 42, done this for a long time,” Harvick said. “Any time you can reach out and grab motivation, for me, that’s just a piece of the puzzle.”

The California driver sarcastically tagged “Happy” is at his best when he’s mad, so much so that former crew chief Gil Martin used to try to rile him during races.

Current crew chief Rodney Childers didn’t have to say anything. Not after Harvick and the Stewart-Haas Racing team were penalized Wednesday for technical violations last week at Las Vegas on the No. 4 Ford.

“Everybody just came here mad, chip on their shoulder, wanting to do exactly what we did today,” Harvick said. “That’s the type of determination and grit that you want in a race team. There’s nothing better to be a part of than something like that.

“Actions speak a whole lot louder than all the words I can say this week, tweets that you can send out. Parking that thing in victory lane is the most powerful thing, most powerful message you can send, and says the most about our organization and our team.”

After saying Friday he would jump up and down on the back of the car if he won, Harvick completed his burnouts and pulled over next to his crew to celebrate. He playfully patted the back window and pointed at it in a nod to social media photos of his buckled rear window in Las Vegas.

“I made it very clear to pat my window and thank it for doing its job,” he said.

Harvick got in front of Kyle Busch on the last series of pit stops in the 312-lap race. Busch’s team dropped the jack and had trouble with the right rear tire on the stop with 53 laps left, allowing Harvick — who pitted three laps earlier — to slip ahead.

“We lost the race on pit road today,” Busch said. “But we’ve won races on pit road, too.”

Harvick got around Chase Elliott — the first car with four fresh tires after the pit stops — and took the lead with 22 laps left when Ryan Newman finally made his last stop.

Busch didn’t seriously challenge Harvick after that, finishing 0.774 seconds back. The two had a series of entertaining battles, with Harvick also dueling Elliott and Denny Hamlin.

“When you have Kyle Busch sticking his finger out of the window with his thumb up talking about having fun and sending messages on the radio, you know everybody is having fun,” Harvick said.

Fun, and stressful for Childers on the pit box.

“Man, it was a heck of a battle,” Childers said. “To sit down there in the corner and watch these guys race like that was like my short track days.”

Elliott was third, followed by Hamlin and pole-sitter Martin Truex Jr.

“I needed a little bit of forward drive there at the end,” Elliott said. “I was turning pretty good and just had a hard time putting the power down.”

Stewart-Haas racing had all four drivers in the top 10 for the first time. Clint Bowyer was sixth, Aric Almirola seventh and Kurt Busch 10th.

“That’s probably what I’m most proud of,” owner Tony Stewart said.

The Busch brothers won the opening 75-lap stages. Kyle held off Harvick in the first. Kurt stayed out during a caution and swiped the second in a one-lap shootout.


Stewart said Sunday he won’t appeal the penalties for the Las Vegas infractions.

“How many appeals have you seen overturned?” he explained.

Inspectors at NASCAR’s research and development center in North Carolina found Harvick’s car violated a rule requiring rear window support braces to hold the glass rigid, and another requiring the right rocker panel extension to be aluminum.

Harvick was penalized the seven playoff points he earned for winning the Las Vegas race and its first two stages. He was docked 20 regular points and the team lost 20 owners’ points. Childers was fined $50,000, and car chief Robert Smith was suspended two races.

Harvick regained the points lead Sunday, moving 12 ahead of Kyle Busch. And with the victory, the No. 4 was headed back to the R&D facility.


Harvick began the winning streak at Atlanta after crashing and finishing 31st in the season-opening Daytona 500. He’s the first to win three straight Cup races since Joey Logano in 2015.

Harvick broke a tie with Kyle Busch with 14 NASCAR national-series victories at the track. In 31 Cup starts in Phoenix, Harvick has 15 top-five finishes. He has one Xfinity win and four Truck victories at the track. The victory also was the milestone 40th of Harvick’s Cup career.


Sunday, March 18, at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.



Sunday from the one-mile ISM Raceway in Avondale, Ariz. (starting position in parentheses):

1. (10) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 312 laps, 53 points.

2. (7) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 312, 52.

3. (3) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 312, 39.

4. (6) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 312, 40.

5. (1) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 312, 41.

6. (19) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 312, 32.

7. (22) Aric Almirola, Ford, 312, 30.

8. (15) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 312, 29.

9. (9) Erik Jones, Toyota, 312, 29.

10. (23) Kurt Busch, Ford, 312, 40.

11. (13) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 312, 26.

12. (11) William Byron, Chevrolet, 312, 25.

13. (4) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 312, 24.

14. (17) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 312, 23.

15. (25) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 312, 35.

16. (12) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 311, 21.

17. (18) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 311, 20.

18. (2) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 311, 27.

19. (5) Joey Logano, Ford, 311, 20.

20. (21) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 311, 17.

21. (20) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 311, 16.

22. (16) David Ragan, Ford, 311, 15.

23. (29) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, 311, 22.

24. (26) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 311, 15.

25. (30) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 311, 12.

26. (8) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 310, 11.

27. (36) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 310, 0.

28. (27) Darrell Wallace Jr, Chevrolet, 309, 9.

29. (24) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 309, 8.

30. (28) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 309, 12.

31. (34) D.J. Kennington, Toyota, 309, 6.

32. (31) Michael McDowell, Ford, 308, 11.

33. (35) Timmy Hill, Chevrolet, 306, 0.

34. (32) Gray Gaulding, Toyota, 304, 3.

35. (37) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 292, 2.

36. (14) Paul Menard, Ford, accident, 189, 1.

37. (33) Corey Lajoie, Chevrolet, engine, 23, 1.

Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 108.078 mph.

Time of Race: 2 hours, 53 minutes, 13 seconds.

Margin of Victory: 0.774 seconds.

Caution Flags: 6 for 36 laps.

Lead Changes: 15 among 9 drivers.

Lap Leaders: M.Truex 0; K.Larson 1-30; M.Truex 31-33; K.Larson 34-57; Ky.Busch 58-123; B.Keselowski 124-128; Ky.Busch 129-147; Ku.Busch 148-153; Ky.Busch 154-178; K.Harvick 179-194; W.Byron 195-209; D.Hamlin 210-242; Ky.Busch 243-260; B.Keselowski 261-267; R.Newman 268-290; K.Harvick 291-312

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): Ky.Busch, 4 times for 124 laps; K.Larson, 2 times for 52 laps; K.Harvick, 2 times for 36 laps; D.Hamlin, 1 time for 32 laps; R.Newman, 1 time for 22 laps; W.Byron, 1 time for 14 laps; B.Keselowski, 2 times for 10 laps; Ku.Busch, 1 time for 5 laps; M.Truex, 2 times for 2 laps.

Wins: K.Harvick, 3; A.Dillon, 1.

Top 16 in Points: 1. K.Harvick, 168; 2. Ky.Busch, 156; 3. M.Truex, 156; 4. R.Blaney, 152; 5. J.Logano, 152; 6. D.Hamlin, 137; 7. B.Keselowski, 134; 8. K.Larson, 131; 9. C.Bowyer, 125; 10. A.Almirola, 123; 11. Ku.Busch, 117; 12. A.Dillon, 114; 13. R.Newman, 101; 14. P.Menard, 97; 15. E.Jones, 93; 16. A.Bowman, 91.

NASCAR: Brad Keselowski overcomes penalty for Xfinity win at Phoenix

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AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Brad Keselowski overcame an early pit-road speeding penalty Saturday to win the rain-delayed NASCAR Xfinity Series at ISM Raceway.

Keselowski took the lead off a pit stop with 32 laps left and held off Justin Allgaier in the race that was delayed two hours because of light rain at the mile oval southwest of Phoenix.

“The weather kind of came to us with what we needed for how our car was handling,” Keselowski said. “It was a solid team effort. I wasn’t perfect today by any stretch of the imagination, but the car was really strong. Really, really good for about 50-60 laps. The last 20 laps it would fall off pretty good, but the guys made it count. I am really proud of them.”

Keselowski was caught speeding in the Team Penske’s No. 22 Ford during the caution period following a rain delay of 1 hour, 35 minutes. The 200-lap race was delayed again for 25 minutes just before the end of the first 45-lap segment.

Sent to back of the lead lap after the penalty, Keselowski worked his way through the field and took the lead from Christopher Bell after they emerged from the pits side-by-side after their final stops.

“Christopher was really strong in the long run and I thought he would be more than we could handle, but we got on pit road and got new tires on it and our car took back off,” Keselowski said.

Keselowski has 37 Xfinity victories, also winning the 2014 fall race in Phoenix. The Cup driver has won his last two Xfinity starts, taking the Richmond event last year.

Allgaier, the pole-winner and defending race champion, won the first 45-lap stage.

“Justin (Allgaier) ran a great race,” Keselowski said. “I honestly thought he outdrove me most of the day. He was really strong.”

The Xfinity regular finished 0.530 seconds back.

“I needed Brad to make a mistake or have a problem for me to catch him,” Allgaier said.

Kyle Busch was third. He took the second stage, holding the lead on a one-lap shootout after the second delay.

Bell was fourth, and Jamie McMurray took fifth in his first series start since 2013.



1. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 200.
2. (1) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 200.
3. (5) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 200.
4. (4) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 200.
5. (6) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 200.
6. (8) Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 200.
7. (9) Matt Tifft, Chevrolet, 200.
8. (3) Cole Custer, Ford, 200.
9. (24) Elliott Sadler, Chevrolet, 199.
10. (40) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 199.
11. (10) Brandon Jones, Toyota, 199.
12. (17) Kaz Grala, Ford, 199.
13. (14) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 199.
14. (12) Spencer Gallagher, Chevrolet, 199.
15. (7) Ryan Truex, Chevrolet, 199.
16. (13) Austin Cindric, Ford, 199.
17. (15) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 199.
18. (11) Ryan Reed, Ford, 199.
19. (18) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 199.
20. (21) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 198.
21. (16) JJ Yeley, Chevrolet, 198.
22. (22) Alex Labbe, Chevrolet, 198.
23. (20) Dylan Lupton, Ford, 198.
24. (19) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 197.
25. (23) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 197.
26. (26) BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, 196.
27. (27) Tommy Joe Martins, Chevrolet, 195.
28. (31) Garrett Smithley, Chevrolet, 195.
29. (28) Josh Williams, Chevrolet, 194.
30. (34) Spencer Boyd, Chevrolet, 194.
31. (32) Stephen Leicht, Toyota, 193.
32. (39) Josh Bilicki, Toyota, 193.
33. (33) Vinnie Miller, Chevrolet, 192.
34. (38) Timmy Hill, Chevrolet, 190.
35. (37) Mike Harmon, Chevrolet, 185.
36. (36) Chad Finchum, Toyota, Engine, 104.
37. (29) Morgan Shepherd, Chevrolet, Brakes, 56.
38. (35) Matt Mills, Chevrolet, Accident, 54.
39. (30) David Starr, Chevrolet, Engine, 24.
40. (25) Jeff Green, Chevrolet, Brakes, 18.


Average speed of winner: 103.019 mph
Time of race: 1 hour, 56 minutes, 29 seconds
Margin of victory: 0.530 seconds
Caution flags: 4 for 24 laps
Lead changes: 10 among 6 drivers

Lap leaders: J. Allgaier 1-10; B. Keselowski 11-33; J. Allgaier 34-49; T. Reddick 50-53; K. Busch 54-92; J. Allgaier 93-142; B. Keselowski 143-163; C. Bell 164-168; T. Reddick 169-170; K. Grala 171-178; B. Keselowski 179-200.

Leaders summary (driver, times lead, laps led): J. Allgaier 3 times ‘for 76 laps; B. Keselowski 3 times for 66 laps; K. Busch 1 time for 39 laps; K. Grala 1 time for 8 laps; T. Reddick 2 times for 6 laps; C. Bell 1 time for 5 laps.

Martin Truex Jr. wins NASCAR Cup pole in Phoenix

AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Martin Truex Jr. won the pole Friday for the NASCAR Cup Series race Sunday at ISM Raceway.

The defending series champion turned a lap at 136.945 mph in the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota in the last of three rounds of qualifying on the mile oval. He edged Kyle Larson in 84-degree afternoon heat for his 16th career pole and second at Phoenix.

“We’ve qualified well here in the past, but we’ve been kind of been searching for those last couple spots,” Truex said. “We were fifth here in the fall and that was about all we can do. Just a good game plan and good execution by everybody. Definitely a fun day.”

Larson was the fastest in practice and topped the second round for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“We’ve been fast here the last few years, so it would be nice to close out the weekend with a win,” Larson said

Chase Elliott was third, followed by Tucson driver Alex Bowman, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray, Erik Jones and Kevin Harvick.

Harvick has a track-record eight victories and is coming off wins the last two weeks in Atlanta and Las Vegas.

“I look at making the final round as an accomplishment for me,” Harvick said. “My cars are always faster than the driver when we come to Phoenix qualifying sessions. Today was another Phoenix qualifying session where I messed it up. I got through 1 and 2, where I had been struggling, good and just got off the brake too soon and got it up the racetrack.”

Jimmie Johnson ended up 17th after topping the first round. The seven-time season champion is winless in 26 races, the longest drought of his career.

“I’m very optimistic with the speed in the car in that first round,” the four-time Phoenix winner said.



Kevin Harvick chasing a first: A third Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory in a row

(PhatzRadio Sports / AP)    —    Kevin Harvick has won 39 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races. He won the 2014 Cup championship, the Daytona 500 in 2007 and owns two Xfinity Series titles.

Something Harvick hasn’t done in his decorated career? Win three consecutive Cup races.

That void could be filled this weekend and, if so, few will be surprised.

After dominating the last two Cup races (at Atlanta and Las Vegas) on the way to victories, Harvick will be the favorite when the tour moves on to ISM Raceway near Phoenix for Sunday’s TicketGuardian 500.

Harvick typically is a prohibitive favorite at Phoenix. He has won a record eight times on the one-mile track.

A win Sunday would make Harvick the first Cup driver to win three in a row since Joey Logano in 2015. A victory also would remove some of the smudge that last week’s win at Las Vegas carries after the No. 4 team was penalized for two infractions.

The failure of a rear-window brace left the Ford with a bowed window for part of the race, an infraction. And the car’s right-side rocker panel extension was not aluminum, as rules require.

Harvick lost seven playoff points and 20 regular-season points, and crew chief Rodney Childers was fined $50,000. Car chief Robert Smith was suspended for two races.

The team has not announced if it will appeal the penalties.

Harvick will carry early-season power into Phoenix. He led 395 of 592 total laps at Atlanta and Las Vegas, a crazy sum considering some teams are still trying to get their legs under them as the season rolls through its early weeks.

 “When things are like this, you want to capitalize on them, and you want to capitalize on your cars and your people and your enthusiasm and the momentum and all the things that come with that, so you’re almost scared to even really step back and say, we did this or we did that, and your name is on the list here,” Harvick said.

Trouble after the Vegas win no doubt will provide some fire for Harvick and his team this weekend.

A win Sunday would make Harvick only the second active driver to log nine wins at one track. Jimmie Johnson has nine wins at Martinsville Speedway and 11 wins at Dover International Speedway.

Of the current top-10 drivers in points, Harvick is the only one with multiple Cup wins at Phoenix. He also has won four times in the Truck series and once in the Xfinity series there.

Sunday’s race will be the last Cup event in the speedway’s current configuration. As part of a $178 million renovation project, the track’s start-finish line will be moved from the front straightaway to near turn two, placing it in front of a 45,000-seat grandstand that is under construction. The new design will be used when NASCAR teams return to the track for a playoff race in November.

NASCAR: Kevin Harvick docked playoff points for illegal winning car

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Harvick has been stripped of the playoff points he earned for winning at Las Vegas because of violations discovered on his Ford.

NASCAR ruled Wednesday that Harvick’s No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team violated the rule requiring rear window support braces holding the rear window glass rigid, as well as a rule requiring the right side rocker panel extension to be aluminum.

The penalty is the loss of the seven playoff points Harvick earned for winning Sunday’s race and both stages. It was Harvick’s second consecutive win of the season.

Harvick also was docked 20 points. Harvick now has six playoff points instead of the 13 he had earned through three races.

Crew chief Rodney Childers was fined $50,000, and car chief Robert Smith was suspended two races.

Images of Harvick’s popped up on social media with fans wondering if the car was legal because the window appeared altered. Childers has maintained a brace failed.


NASCAR issued the list of 20 nominees for its 2019 Hall of Fame class Tuesday, and one of the new names is a solid, bet-it-all, slam-dunk choice.

That would be Jeff Gordon, who will roar into the hall as if he’s making a last-lap backstretch pass to win the Daytona 500.

Gordon could — and should — be a unanimous first-ballot pick. He won 93 Cup races (third all-time behind hall members Richard Petty and David Pearson) and scored four championships. Beyond the numbers, he brought a fresh new face to the sport, became a mainstream celebrity and opened the NASCAR door for other short-track open-wheel drivers.

The other new nominees are driver Harry Gant, team owners John Holman and Ralph Moody and crew chief Kirk Shelmerdine, who was in charge during four of Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s Cup Series championships.

Although those four nominees could eventually make the hall, none is likely to go in when voters meet May 23 to pick the next five hall members.

Three former drivers — all deceased — were on the brink of election last year and will be favored by many to make the 2019 class. Davey Allison and Buddy Baker scored 19 Cup victories and were among the most popular drivers during their eras, and Alan Kulwicki became an instant star when he won the 1992 Cup championship, the last independent owner-driver to do so.

The fifth spot possibly could go to long-time team owner Jack Roush, who has won five championships across NASCAR’s three national series.

The 20 nominees are chosen by a panel dominated by NASCAR officials and track owners. The voting panel for the hall includes the nominating group, news media representatives and a single vote representing fans’ choice.

The 2019 class will be inducted in Charlotte in January.

NASCAR: Kevin Harvick dominates Vegas for back-to-back NASCAR wins

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — From his dynamic opening laps to his comfortable cruise to the checkered flag, Kevin Harvick was the safest bet in Sin City this weekend.

Harvick’s air of inevitability increased with each lap around the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, and the rest of the NASCAR Cup field must be a bit worried about how they’re going to catch up this year.

Harvick raced to his second straight NASCAR Cup win with a dominant performance in Vegas on Sunday, earning his 100th career win across the three national series.

“There was no catching that 4 (car),” second-place finisher Kyle Busch said. “He was on rails, and lights out.”

Harvick followed up his stellar performance last weekend in Atlanta with another victory in his Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. He led a track-record 214 of the 267 laps, won all three stages and capably held off Busch’s late hometown charge to win in Vegas for the second time in four years.

“These last two weeks, we’ve just hit on everything we needed to,” said Harvick, who cruised home 2.9 seconds ahead of Busch. “My (team has) done their homework on a number of things. Just really proud of everybody.”

Busch got close to his second career victory in his hometown with his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, but couldn’t overcome the dominant leader. Kyle Larson finished third after winning the Xfinity Series race on Saturday, while defending champion Martin Truex Jr. was in fourth and pole-sitter Ryan Blaney in fifth.

Harvick has already matched his Cup win total from last season in three races — and he’s headed to Phoenix, where he has won five times since 2012.

Harvick also took a moment to savor a milestone. Only Richard Petty, Kyle Busch and David Pearson have won more races across the three national circuits than Harvick, the 42-year-old Californian with plenty of good years left on his tires.

“It’s been a lot of years accumulated with a lot of great race teams and people and situations,” Harvick said. “When you tag that triple-digit number to it, it really lets you realize that you’ve been fortunate to accomplish a lot of things.”

Not many wins are more emphatic than Harvick’s 100th.

Harvick led 144 of the first 160 laps and comfortably won the first two stages. He was fourth out of the end-of-stage caution after Stage 2, with Joey Logano getting in front with an exceptional pit stop.

But Harvick reclaimed the lead off another restart with 73 laps to go after Kurt Busch wrecked along with Chase Elliott. Harvick emerged from his last pit stop with a three-second lead on Brad Keselowski, and Busch couldn’t catch up.

Here are more things to know about the race on the Strip:

DOING RECON: For the first time, NASCAR is returning to Vegas in the fall for a second race, which will also be the playoff opener. Teams used this trip to gather data and information for the return trip in September, although the temperature could easily be 50 degrees higher than the balmy 53 degrees at Sunday’s race. “The adjustments we made today are going to help in the fall,” Kyle Busch said. “(Although) I think the track is going to be a lot slower with the heat.”

KUBU CAN’T DO: Kurt Busch’s career-long victory drought in his hometown continues. Busch lost control and ran Elliott into the wall shortly after a restart early in the final stage. The crash necessitated a long caution for fluid cleanup. The 39-year-old Busch has never won at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which was built while he grew up in town. Kurt Busch failed to win the Cup race in Vegas for the 17th time. He has started on the pole twice, but has only one top-five finish here despite calling it a top priority in his career.

WINNING BIG: Harvick was even more dominant in Vegas than Truex was last year. Truex led all three stages and 150 laps last year on his way to a victory that propelled him into his championship season.

THREE STRIKES: The car chiefs for Jimmie Johnson and Ross Chastain were ejected after their cars failed inspection three times during the pre-race checks. Johnson had to start at the back after his chief, Jesse Saunders, got the gate. Johnson also will have practice time taken away next week in Phoenix. The seven-time champion still rallied to finish 12th.

COMEBACK STORY: Josh Frankos, the tire-changer on Darrell Wallace Jr.’s Richard Petty Motorsports team, injured his hand while preparing for the Vegas race and was sent to a hospital on Sunday morning. Michael Hubert filled in for him on pit road. The injury couldn’t keep Frankos down, however: He returned to the track for the race.



Sunday from the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway (starting position in parentheses):

1. (2) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 267 laps, 60 points.

2. (13) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 267, 43.

3. (5) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 267, 50.

4. (4) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 267, 46.

5. (1) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 267, 48.

6. (8) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 267, 41.

7. (10) Joey Logano, Ford, 267, 43.

8. (9) Erik Jones, Toyota, 267, 29.

9. (12) Paul Menard, Ford, 267, 30.

10. (29) Aric Almirola, Ford, 266, 27.

11. (25) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 266, 26.

12. (14) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 266, 25.

13. (16) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 266, 24.

14. (7) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, 265, 23.

15. (28) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 265, 22.

16. (20) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 265, 21.

17. (19) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 265, 20.

18. (11) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 265, 19.

19. (21) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 264, 18.

20. (24) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 264, 17.

21. (26) Darrell Wallace Jr, Chevrolet, 264, 16.

22. (32) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 264, 15.

23. (23) David Ragan, Ford, 264, 14.

24. (31) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 264, 13.

25. (30) Cole Custer, Chevrolet, 264, 0.

26. (18) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 263, 11.

27. (17) William Byron, Chevrolet, 263, 10.

28. (34) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 262, 9.

29. (33) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 262, 0.

30. (27) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 262, 7.

31. (36) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 255, 6.

32. (37) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 253, 0.

33. (35) Gray Gaulding, Toyota, engine, 195, 4.

34. (6) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, accident, 183, 8.

35. (3) Kurt Busch, Ford, accident, 183, 9.

36. (22) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, accident, 176, 1.

37. (15) Michael McDowell, Ford, engine, 100, 1.


Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 141.760 mph.

Time of Race: 2 hours, 49 minutes, 31 seconds.

Margin of Victory: 2.906 seconds.

Caution Flags: 4 for 29 laps.

Lead Changes: 11 among 6 drivers.

Lap Leaders: R.Blaney 1; K.Harvick 2-38; M.McDowell 39-49; K.Harvick 50-121; Ky.Busch 122-125; K.Harvick 126-163; J.Logano 164-176; M.Truex 177-182; J.Logano 183-194; K.Harvick 195-224; Ky.Busch 225-230; K.Harvick 231-267

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): K.Harvick, 5 times for 209 laps; J.Logano, 2 times for 23 laps; M.McDowell, 1 time for 10 laps; Ky.Busch, 2 times for 8 laps; M.Truex, 1 time for 5 laps; R.Blaney, 1 time for 0 laps.

Wins: K.Harvick, 2; A.Dillon, 1.

Top 16 in Points: 1. K.Harvick, 135; 2. J.Logano, 132; 3. R.Blaney, 131; 4. M.Truex, 115; 5. Ky.Busch, 104; 6. K.Larson, 104; 7. B.Keselowski, 99; 8. D.Hamlin, 97; 9. P.Menard, 96; 10. A.Dillon, 94; 11. A.Almirola, 93; 12. C.Bowyer, 93; 13. Ku.Busch, 77; 14. R.Newman, 75; 15. D.Wallace, 68; 16. A.Bowman, 67.

NASCAR: Kyle Larson rolls to Xfinity Series win in Las Vegas

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Kyle Larson looks ready to make another memorable West Coast swing after kicking it off with another NASCAR Xfinity Series win.

Larson overcame strong wind and two late restarts Saturday to earn his ninth career Xfinity victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The 25-year-old Californian earned his first win on the 1 1/2-mile track in Vegas, where he finished second in both the Xfinity and Cup series races last year.

Larson claimed the lead on the opening lap and eventually led 142 of the 200 laps in his Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. He avoided any late-race fuel trouble when Ryan Reed blew a tire with 16 laps to go, allowing him to gas up for the final push.

Rookie Christopher Bell finished second in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, and Justin Allgaier was third. Ryan Blaney, the pole-sitter for Sunday’s Monster Energy Cup series race, came in fourth ahead of Elliott Sadler in fifth.

Larson is the 10th consecutive different winner in the Xfinity race in Vegas, and the Cup star was clearly the class of the field. He capably navigated wind gusts topping 25 mph on the north end of the Las Vegas Strip to earn his fifth consecutive top-three finish in Xfinity races.

“This race car is so fast,” Larson said after his second Xfinity start of the season. “It was really fast last year, but you never really know. This was my first time with this body, and it performed well.”

Yet Larson was uncertain whether his fuel would last until the finish, but the caution for Reed allowed Larson to pit. Larson quickly reclaimed the top spot despite falling behind Tyler Reddick out of the pits with 11 laps to go, and Larson coolly stayed in front after the final restart with seven laps left.

Larson was phenomenal during NASCAR’s three-race trip out West last season. The Sacramento-area product finished second in the 2017 Cup series races in Las Vegas and Phoenix before winning at Fontana to complete a double with his Xfinity win at Auto Club Speedway.

Bell followed up his third-place finish in Atlanta with another impressive performance by last season’s Truck Series champion. He had never made an Xfinity start in Vegas.

“If I have to run second to anyone, running second to him is pretty cool,” Bell said of Larson, his good friend. “Plus, I got him in the Chili Bowl.”

Kyle Busch surged back into 14th, but lost his hopes of a three-victory weekend. The Las Vegas native won the Truck race from the pole on Friday night.

Busch lost any chance at contention late in the race when he was hit with a drive-through penalty because the crew member in charge of fueling caught a loose tire during a pit stop.

Larson passed Blaney on a slick move with 73 laps to go, but lost his top spot with a slow pit stop under caution moments later after Austin Cindric wrecked. Larson swiftly surged from seventh into second, and he rolled back in front with 48 laps left.

The Xfinity race should benefit the drivers competing in Sunday’s race, and it will provide valuable information for the teams returning to Vegas in September for the track’s second race of the season.

Allgaier posted his seventh top-10 finish in eight career races in Vegas.


NASCAR at Las Vegas Motor Speedway 2018: Start time, lineup, TV schedule, more

It’s NASCAR race day at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and we’ve got everything you need to know to get ready for Sunday’s Pennzoil 400.

START TIME: Golden Globe Winner and Emmy Award Nominee Dylan McDermott, star of the Fox comedy LA To Vegas, will instruct drivers to start their engines at 3:37 p.m. ET, followed by the green flag at 3:46 p.m. ET.

RACE DISTANCE: The Pennzoil 400 is is 267 laps around the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway for a total of 400.5 miles.

RACE STAGES: After a successful run last season, NASCAR will once again be dividing races into stages and handing out points. Here are the segments for today’s race: Stage 1: 80 laps, Stage 2: 80 laps, Stage 3: 107 laps.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: Classic southern rock band 38 Special will perform the national anthem at 3:31 p.m. ET followed by a flyover by four F-16’s from the 57th OG Nellis AFB in southern Nevada.

TV/RADIO SCHEDULE: Fox will broadcast the race and has a pre-race show beginning at 3 p.m. ET. The Performance Racing Network and Sirius/XM NASCAR Radio will call the event on the radio.

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

WEATHER: The Weather Channel is calling for sunny skies on Sunday with NNW winds around 8 mph and no chance of rain.

LAST TIME: Martin 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 — en route to his first Cup Series championship.

LINEUP: Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney captured his third career pole and will start alongside another Ford — Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick, who won last weekend’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Here is the starting lineup for the Pennzoil 400 (car number in parentheses):

1. (12) Ryan Blaney, Ford

2. (4) Kevin Harvick, Ford

3. (41) Kurt Busch, Ford

4. (78) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota

5. (42) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet

6. (9) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet

7. (17) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford

8. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford

9. (20) Erik Jones, Toyota

10. (22) Joey Logano, Ford

11. (14) Clint Bowyer, Ford

12. (21) Paul Menard, Ford

13. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota

14. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet

15. (34) Michael McDowell, Ford

16. (3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet

17. (24) William Byron, Chevrolet

18. (19) Daniel Suarez, Toyota

19. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota

20. (88) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet

21. (95) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet

22. (1) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet

23. (38) David Ragan, Ford

24. (6) Trevor Bayne, Ford

25. (31) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet

26. (43) Darrell Wallace Jr., Chevrolet

27. (47) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet

28. (37) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet

29. (10) Aric Almirola, Ford

30. (51) Cole Custer, Ford

31. (13) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet

32. (32) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford

33. (15) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet

34. (72) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet

35. (23) Gray Gaulding, Toyota

36. (00) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet

37. (55) Joey Gase, Chevrolet

Kyle Busch wins hometown NASCAR Truck race in Las Vegas

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Kyle Busch won his hometown NASCAR Truck race Friday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for his 50th series victory.

Busch took advantage when Brett Moffitt, last week’s winner in Atlanta, went sideways with 26 laps left. Busch, who had been fighting to overtake Moffitt in the final stage, took control on a restart with 12 laps to go.

Moffitt pushed Busch on the final laps, but Busch held off Moffitt — who got caught up in lapped traffic with less than five laps left.

Johnny Sauter was second. Moffit was third, followed by Grant Enfinger and Stewart Friesen, the winner of the second stage.

Busch, who won the pole and led 55 laps, has a career sweep in Las Vegas, winning NASCAR events in the Cup, Xfinity and Truck series. He has made 142 career Truck starts.

“It was really, really fast. I felt like we were struggling just a little bit in the long run,” Busch said. “It’s been a lot of fun to win these races, especially with your own team and being with your own guys.”

Sauter has finished first, second and third in three races this season — but he was still frustrated to finish second to Busch.

“It’s just a frustrating night. We could just not get going on restarts again,” Sauter said. “We’ve got to figure something out. I’ve got to get better speed.”

Sauter pushed his lead over Moffitt to 39 points with the runner-up finish.


FULL RESULTS: Stratosphere 200

1. (1) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 134 laps, 0 rating, 0 points.
2. (3) Johnny Sauter, Chevrolet, 134, 0, 42.
3. (6) Brett Moffitt, Toyota, 134, 0, 43.
4. (8) Grant Enfinger, Ford, 134, 0, 35.
5. (2) Stewart Friesen, Chevrolet, 134, 0, 49.
6. (18) Dalton Sargeant, Chevrolet, 134, 0, 31.
7. (15) Ben Rhodes, Ford, 134, 0, 42.
8. (14) Cody Coughlin, Chevrolet, 134, 0, 31.
9. (17) Justin Fontaine, Chevrolet, 134, 0, 28.
10. (13) Austin Hill, Chevrolet, 134, 0, 27.
11. (7) Justin Marks, Toyota, 134, 0, 26.
12. (5) Noah Gragson, Toyota, 134, 0, 40.
13. (4) Spencer Davis, Toyota, 134, 0, 34.
14. (20) Wendell Chavous, Chevrolet, 134, 0, 23.
15. (10) Myatt Snider, Ford, 133, 0, 37.
16. (19) Austin Wayne Self, Toyota, 133, 0, 21.
17. (16) Jordan Anderson, Chevrolet, 133, 0, 20.
18. (24) Robby Lyons, Chevrolet, 133, 0, 19.
19. (22) Michel Disdier, Chevrolet, 132, 0, 18.
20. (23) Bayley Currey, Chevrolet, 132, 0, 17.
21. (9) John Hunter Nemechek, Chevrolet, 130, 0, 0.
22. (26) Mike Harmon, Chevrolet, 127, 0, 15.
23. (31) BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, 123, 0, 0.
24. (27) Jennifer Jo Cobb, Chevrolet, 123, 0, 13.
25. (25) Josh Reaume, Chevrolet, engine, 119, 0, 12.
26. (30) Norm Benning, Chevrolet, garage, 118, 0, 11.
27. (28) Tommy Regan, Chevrolet, 112, 0, 10.
28. (11) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, accident, 75, 0, 13.
29. (12) Matt Crafton, Ford, brakes, 40, 0, 9.
30. (32) Mike Senica, Chevrolet, electrical, 28, 0, 7.
31. (21) Joe Nemechek, Chevrolet, vibration, 23, 0, 6.
32. (29) Scott Stenzel, Chevrolet, electrical, 5, 0, 5.


Average speed of winner: 122.658 mph.
Time of race: 1 hour, 38 minutes, 19 seconds.
Margin of victory: 0.437 seconds.
Caution flags: 5 for 25 laps.
Lead changes: 14 among 7 drivers.

Lap leaders: K.Busch 1-15; S.Friesen 16-20; N.Gragson 21-32; G.Enfinger 33-35; K.Busch 36-39; G.Enfinger 40; K.Busch 41-42; S.Friesen 43-68; B.Moffitt 69-70; K.Busch 71-83; B.Moffitt 84-108; K.Busch 109-114; D.Sargeant 115-117; J.Fontaine 118-119; K.Busch 120-134

Leaders summary (driver, times led, laps led): K.Busch, 6 times for 49 laps; S.Friesen, 2 times for 29 laps; B.Moffitt, 2 times for 25 laps; N.Gragson, 1 time for 11 laps; G.Enfinger, 2 times for 2 laps; D.Sargeant, 1 time for 2 laps; J.Fontaine, 1 time for 1 lap.

Wins: K.Busch, 1; B.Moffitt, 1; J.Sauter, 1.

Top 10 in points: 1. J.Sauter, 148; 2. B.Moffitt, 109; 3. G.Enfinger, 108; 4. N.Gragson, 107; 5. B.Rhodes, 103; 6. S.Friesen, 101; 7. S.Davis, 94; 8. D.Sargeant, 92; 9. M.Crafton, 84; 10. M.Snider, 84.

NASCAR: Ryan Blaney claims Vegas pole; Harvick still fast in 2nd

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Ryan Blaney claimed the pole Friday night for the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Blaney earned his third career pole with a lap at 191.489 mph in his Team Penske Ford, easily outdistancing Kevin Harvick on a windy evening.

Blaney blazed through the final round of knockout qualifying for his first pole of the young season and his first since late last year in Phoenix. The 24-year-old is off to a solid start to the season with a seventh-place finish at Daytona, and he’ll be in prime position in Vegas to record his second career victory.

“I thought our car was pretty good, but I didn’t know if we had pole speed,” Blaney said. “We made really good changes between practice and qualifying, and really good changes throughout qualifying. … That’s really all you can ask for. I think our team does such a good job of getting better round to round. That’s so huge now with the three rounds. That’s something we’ve been working really hard on for the last couple of years, and it’s paying off.”

Harvick kept up his outstanding start to the season and secured a front-row Ford lockout with a second-place finish in qualifying for Sunday’s Pennzoil 400. The Stewart-Haas Racing stalwart earned his best starting position in 18 career races in Vegas by turning a lap at 190.248 mph.

Fords claimed the top three spots and five of the first eight. Las Vegas native Kurt Busch qualified right behind Harvick at 190.067 mph in his Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, while Martin Truex Jr. drove his Furniture Row Racing Toyota into fourth.

“Three Fords in the top three there, that’s pretty cool,” Blaney said.

Here are more things to know about qualifying at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway:

FORD IS FAST: For the second straight weeks, Fords locked down the top three spots in qualifying. Fords also excelled in the subsequent race in Atlanta, with Harvick cruising to victory. Fords will start in eight of the top 12 positions at Las Vegas after just three Ford drivers failed to reach the final round of qualifying.

SO CLOSE: Veterans Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch barely missed out on the final round of qualifying. Busch will start 13th in his hometown, while four-time Vegas champion Johnson will begin in 14th. Busch ran off after his laps to get ready to run in the Truck Series race shortly afterward Monster Energy Cup qualifying ended.

BACK IN VEGAS: Blaney finished third in qualifying last year on this 1 1/2-mile oval in the desert. “I like this place,” Blaney said. “It’s just a combination of everybody working hard, and it shows the speed we’ve had all weekend. It would be really nice to get a win this early in the season.”


FULL LINEUP: Pennzoil 400

1. (12) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 191.489 mph.
2. (4) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 190.248.
3. (41) Kurt Busch, Ford, 190.067.
4. (78) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 189.980.
5. (42) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 189.447.
6. (9) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 189.175.
7. (17) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 189.148.
8. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 189.102.
9. (20) Erik Jones, Toyota, 188.719.
10. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 188.640.
11. (14) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 188.469.
12. (21) Paul Menard, Ford, 188.442.
13. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 188.838.
14. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 188.712.
15. (34) Michael McDowell, Ford, 188.607.
16. (3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 188.442.
17. (24) William Byron, Chevrolet, 188.363.
18. (19) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 187.865.
19. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 187.846.
20. (88) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 187.441.
21. (95) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 187.305.
22. (1) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 187.246.
23. (38) David Ragan, Ford, 187.162.
24. (6) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 186.413.
25. (31) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 187.650.
26. (43) Darrell Wallace Jr., Chevrolet, 187.546.
27. (47) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 186.916.
28. (37) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 186.335.
29. (10) Aric Almirola, Ford, 186.123.
30. (51) Cole Custer, Ford, 185.982.
31. (13) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 185.312.
32. (32) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 185.027.
33. (15) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 183.418.
34. (72) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 182.272.
35. (23) Gray Gaulding, Toyota, 179.241.
36. (00) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 176.292.
37. (55) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 173.628.

NASCAR: Moffitt takes Truck win in Atlanta on Busch’s pit mishap

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HAMPTON, Ga. (AP) — Kyle Busch lost the lead — and his left rear tire — on a late pit stop, opening the way for Brett Moffitt’s improbable win Saturday in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Busch was leading when Josh Reaume hit the wall with six laps to go. The caution presented an opportunity for late visits to the pits for the leaders.

Busch’s crew first put on right-side tires. He pulled away before the crew was finished with his left rear tire. The tire came off before Busch could return to the track. He then backed up on pit row with sparks flying from underneath the truck.

Using the inside lane, Moffitt took the lead on the restart and pulled away in his Toyota for his second career win.

“I was able to make up a lot of ground there and just get under people,” Moffitt said. “… It seemed like our motor was really good on restarts.”

It was team owner Shigeaki Hattori’s first career win.

Noah Gragson finished second. Like Moffitt, he made the most of the restart.

“I came from ninth and I think I was second halfway down that straightaway,” Gragson said.

Johnny Sauter, who won last week’s race at Daytona, was third.

“I felt like we were in the right position and it just didn’t work out,” Sauter said. “That’s racing. … When you have a shot to win you feel like you need to capitalize on it. I didn’t do that tonight.”

Ben Rhodes was fourth.

Busch, who started from the pole, was denied his 50th career Truck victory. He finished 21st.

Busch also will start from the pole in Sunday’s Monster Energy Cup race.



Saturday from the 1.5-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway:

1. (10) Brett Moffitt, Toyota, 134 laps, 0 rating, 55 points.

2. (3) Noah Gragson, Toyota, 134, 0, 51.

3. (9) Johnny Sauter, Chevrolet, 134, 0, 47.

4. (14) Ben Rhodes, Ford, 134, 0, 38.

5. (2) Matt Crafton, Ford, 134, 0, 48.

6. (7) Stewart Friesen, Chevrolet, 134, 0, 33.

7. (19) Myatt Snider, Ford, 134, 0, 30.

8. (12) Jesse Little, Toyota, 134, 0, 38.

9. (16) Grant Enfinger, Ford, 134, 0, 36.

10. (13) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 134, 0, 0.

11. (17) Parker Kligerman, Toyota, 134, 0, 28.

12. (11) Joe Nemechek, Chevrolet, 134, 0, 25.

13. (4) Spencer Davis, Toyota, 134, 0, 29.

14. (6) Dalton Sargeant, Chevrolet, 134, 0, 24.

15. (20) Austin Wayne Self, Toyota, 134, 0, 22.

16. (21) Korbin Forrister, Toyota, 134, 0, 21.

17. (15) Bo Le Mastus, Toyota, 134, 0, 20.

18. (18) Austin Hill, Chevrolet, 133, 0, 19.

19. (22) Justin Fontaine, Chevrolet, 133, 0, 18.

20. (8) Cody Coughlin, Chevrolet, 133, 0, 17.

21. (1) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 133, 0, 0.

22. (5) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 132, 0, 15.

23. (29) Wendell Chavous, Chevrolet, 131, 0, 14.

24. (25) Jordan Anderson, Chevrolet, 129, 0, 13.

25. (27) Robby Lyons, Chevrolet, 128, 0, 12.

26. (30) Jennifer Jo Cobb, Chevrolet, 120, 0, 11.

27. (24) Josh Reaume, Chevrolet, accident, 119, 0, 10.

28. (31) Clay Greenfield, Chevrolet, garage, 116, 0, 9.

29. (28) Norm Benning, Chevrolet, vibration, 108, 0, 8.

30. (23) Akinori Ogata, Chevrolet, accident, 62, 0, 7.

31. (26) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, electrical, 7, 0, 0.

32. (32) Scott Stenzel, Chevrolet, electrical, 0, 0, 5.


Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 123.823 mph.

Time of Race: 1 hour, 40 minutes, 0 seconds.

Margin of Victory: 1.326 seconds.

Caution Flags: 5 for 24 laps.

Lead Changes: 9 among 6 drivers.

Lap Leaders: K.Busch 0; N.Gragson 1-43; M.Crafton 44-50; J.Sauter 51-52; K.Busch 53-83; J.Sauter 84-92; K.Busch 93-128; M.Snider 129-131; J.Sauter 132; B.Moffitt 133-134

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): K.Busch, 3 times for 65 laps; N.Gragson, 1 time for 42 laps; J.Sauter, 3 times for 9 laps; M.Crafton, 1 time for 6 laps; M.Snider, 1 time for 2 laps; B.Moffitt, 1 time for 1 lap.

Wins: B.Moffitt, 1; J.Sauter, 1.

Top 10 in Points: 1. J.Sauter, 106; 2. M.Crafton, 75; 3. G.Enfinger, 73; 4. N.Gragson, 67; 5. B.Moffitt, 66; 6. B.Rhodes, 61; 7. D.Sargeant, 61; 8. S.Davis, 60; 9. J.Nemechek, 59; 10. J.Haley, 55.

NASCAR: Harvick dominant in 4th Atlanta Xfinity win in last 6 years

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HAMPTON, Ga. (AP) — For Joey Logano, the final 4-second margin behind Kevin Harvick felt more like a full lap.

Harvick led 141 of 163 laps Saturday for his fifth NASCAR Xfinity series victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway and fourth in the last six years.

Logano finished second, ahead of Christopher Bell, who started on the pole. They were the only other drivers to lead laps.

Almost from the very start, the race belonged to Harvick.

“I don’t think we were even close,” Logano said. “Kevin played with us all race long.”

Added Bell: “You’re supposed to be struggling but he (Logano) was struggling a little bit less and Harvick was struggling a lot less. That’s the gap we’ve got to make up.”

Harvick started fifth but quickly moved to the lead while winning each of the first two stages.

“That was a lot of fun to be a part of,” he said.

He also won the 2009 and 2013-2015 Atlanta Xfinity races before Kyle Busch won the last two years.

Harvick served as Bell’s escort, guiding him around the 1.54-mile track through most of the second half of the race. Bell remained within a few seconds of Harvick’s Ford but couldn’t seriously challenge. Logano passed Bell for second with five laps remaining.

It was only the latest show of dominance by Harvick in Atlanta. In last season’s Monster Energy Cup race, Harvick led 292 laps before finishing ninth after being hurt by a pit road speeding penalty. Harvick finished fourth in Atlanta’s 2017 Xfinity race.

“We were frustrated here last year,” Harvick said. “We didn’t leave here with a trophy either day and that’s always our goal. … I felt bad that we didn’t do that last year but this is a great way to start off this year.”

Harvick will start fourth in Sunday’s Cup race. He’ll be in a different car, but he said the Xfinity experience will help him prepare for what he described as a “rhythm race track.”

From the view of Harvick’s rivals, he was in a rhythm of his own in his 98 Ford.

“I can’t really figure out why Kevin is so good here,” Logano said. “It doesn’t seem to really matter what car he’s in. He’s just good.

“Christopher and I had a good race. I wish it were for the win.”

Rookie John Hunter Nemechek, the son of former driver Joe Nemechek, was fourth. The younger Nemechek is a full-time driver on the NASCAR Truck series.

“I had an open mindset coming into this weekend,” Nemechek said. “… I didn’t know where we were going to stack up in qualifying. I didn’t know where we were going to stack up in the race. It was a good learning curve.”

Elliott Sadler finished fifth.



Saturday from the 1.5-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway (starting position in parentheses):

1. (5) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 163 laps, 0 rating, 0 points.

2. (2) Joey Logano, Ford, 163, 0, 0.

3. (1) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 163, 0, 52.

4. (3) John Hunter Nemechek, Chevrolet, 163, 0, 33.

5. (10) Elliott Sadler, Chevrolet, 163, 0, 43.

6. (17) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 163, 0, 37.

7. (9) Austin Cindric, Ford, 163, 0, 37.

8. (8) Kyle Benjamin, Toyota, 162, 0, 34.

9. (15) Ryan Truex, Chevrolet, 162, 0, 28.

10. (12) Ryan Reed, Ford, 162, 0, 36.

11. (6) Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 162, 0, 28.

12. (14) Matt Tifft, Chevrolet, 162, 0, 25.

13. (16) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 162, 0, 0.

14. (13) Spencer Gallagher, Chevrolet, 162, 0, 23.

15. (18) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 162, 0, 22.

16. (24) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 162, 0, 21.

17. (7) Brandon Jones, Toyota, 161, 0, 20.

18. (33) Alex Labbe, Chevrolet, 161, 0, 19.

19. (11) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 161, 0, 30.

20. (21) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 161, 0, 17.

21. (28) Dylan Lupton, Ford, 160, 0, 16.

22. (25) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 160, 0, 15.

23. (20) Kaz Grala, Ford, 159, 0, 14.

24. (37) Josh Williams, Chevrolet, 159, 0, 13.

25. (32) Garrett Smithley, Chevrolet, 159, 0, 12.

26. (30) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 159, 0, 11.

27. (22) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 158, 0, 10.

28. (36) David Starr, Chevrolet, 158, 0, 9.

29. (35) Spencer Boyd, Chevrolet, 158, 0, 8.

30. (23) BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, 158, 0, 7.

31. (39) Vinnie Miller, Chevrolet, 158, 0, 6.

32. (38) Stephen Leicht, Toyota, 157, 0, 5.

33. (26) Tommy Joe Martins, Chevrolet, 156, 0, 4.

34. (29) Timmy Hill, Chevrolet, 156, 0, 3.

35. (34) Chad Finchum, Chevrolet, 155, 0, 2.

36. (40) Matt Mills, Chevrolet, 154, 0, 1.

37. (19) JJ Yeley, Chevrolet, engine, 92, 0, 1.

38. (31) Morgan Shepherd, Chevrolet, brakes, 49, 0, 1.

39. (4) Cole Custer, Ford, accident, 10, 0, 1.

40. (27) Jeff Green, Chevrolet, vibration, 5, 0, 1.


Average Speed of Race Winner: 129.67 mph.

Time of Race: 1 hour, 56 minutes, 9 seconds.

Margin of Victory: 4.183 seconds.

Caution Flags: 4 for 21 laps.

Lead Changes: 9 among 3 drivers.

Lap Leaders: C. Bell 0; J. Logano 1-4; C. Bell 5-16; K. Harvick 17-36; J. Logano 37-39; K. Harvick 40-82; J. Logano 83; K. Harvick 84-127; J. Logano 128-129; K. Harvick 130-163.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): K. Harvick 4 times for 141 laps; C. Bell 1 time for 12 laps; J. Logano 4 times for 10 laps.

Wins: K.Harvick, 1; T.Reddick, 1.

Driver Standings: 1, Elliott Sadler, 84. 2, Tyler Reddick, 80. 3, Ryan Reed, 70. 4, Ryan Truex, 63. 5, Spencer Gallagher, 62. 6, Christopher Bell, 53. 7, Justin Allgaier, 52. 8, Ross Chastain, 49. 9, Kaz Grala, 47. 10, Brandon Jones, 47.

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

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


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

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

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

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

DAYTONA 500: All-time pole winners and speeds 

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

NASCAR debuts fantasy game inspired by stage-racing success in 2017

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports)   —    Following a successful first season of stage racing, NASCAR announced on Monday a new fantasy game inspired by the competition format that has created closer, side-by-side racing and more dramatic moments throughout races.

The new NASCAR Fantasy Live follows the NASCAR official scoring system, allows players to make in-race driver substitutions and features incentives for correctly predicting stage wins, race wins and more. It is accessible on ( and the NASCAR Mobile app.

Players can register at beginning Monday and set their driver rosters for the Daytona 500 next week when the race entry list is announced.

“In NASCAR, every lap matters,” said Tim Clark, managing director of NASCAR Digital Media. “The new NASCAR Fantasy Live game reflects the lap-by-lap intensity of modern NASCAR racing by giving fans the opportunity to strategize and adjust their driver lineups in real-time during races.”

In NASCAR Fantasy Live, players pick five drivers to start prior to each Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. In addition, a sixth “garage” driver on the roster can be swapped in-race for any active driver before the final stage begins.

Game scoring follows NASCAR official scoring and rewards points based on race results and driver finishing position for all three stages. Only drivers in the “starting” position at the end of each race will earn fantasy points.

Individual drivers can be used a maximum of 10 times during the season. If a driver ends the race in the player’s garage, it will not count against the season limit.

During races, drivers running in the top 10 at the conclusion of Stage 1 and Stage 2 receive points, beginning with 10 points for the stage winner, nine points for second place, eight points for third place, and so on.

Mirroring how Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races are scored, the race-winning driver earns 40 points, the second-place finisher 35 points, the third-place finisher 34 points, and so forth. The final four drivers to finish each race earn one point apiece.

Players can also score bonus points by correctly picking the pole winner (5 points), Stage 1 winner (10), Stage 2 winner (10), winning manufacturer (10) and race-winning driver (30).

NASCAR Fantasy Live will run throughout the 26-week Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular season and culminate with the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sept. 9. The overall points leader after the final race will be crowned 2018 champion and win $10,000.

NASCAR’s new pit crew rules will test teams’ speed, athleticism, safety protocols

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports)    —   Pit road, where the work that often leads to NASCAR race victories is accomplished, could be an even more important strip of pavement this season.

Among a raft of off-season changes announced by NASCAR, over-the-wall crews will be cut from six to five this year, a decision that has made for a busy winter for Cup Series teams.

The loss of an over-the-wall team member, plus additional modifications, is expected to significantly change the look of pit stops and, more importantly, the length. And one veteran crewman says the change could lead to more injuries among the men who go over the wall.

Top pit crews typically change four tires and refuel their cars in about 11 seconds. The change is expected to increase that time to around 13 seconds, particularly in the early weeks of the season as teams adjust to the new landscape.

“We’ve been working with the people, positions and choreography,” said Hendrick Motorsports Director of Human Performance and pit-crew coach Andy Papathanassiou. “And that will continue through the start of the season. We want to see how it all plays out and what other teams have thought of that we haven’t that might be a better idea.

“It all might look good on paper and in practice but not so good in real competition.”

Drivers pit several times during races, and speed during those stops can mean the difference in several positions when they return to the track. Pit stops are particularly important late in races because fast stops put drivers higher in the lineup for critical late-race restarts.

Michael Lingerfelt, 41, has changed tires for leading NASCAR teams, including Joe Gibbs Racing, Hendrick Motorsports and Roush Fenway Racing, for 23 seasons. He said the added physical stress on some pit crew members and the increased traffic as team members move longer distances around the car are likely to increase the likelihood of injuries.

“Some of the smaller changers aren’t used to the act of carrying the tires (about 60 pounds) in a hurry and moving them around,” Lingerfelt said. “That might not be a problem at Daytona where there aren’t as many stops, but at a track like Atlanta, where there might be eight or 10 stops, it’s going to wear on them.

“Some of the guys don’t have the body framework to carry themselves and their tire and then get into position in a hurry.”

Lingerfelt knows about dealing with injuries. In the 2000 Daytona 500, while changing tires for driver Tony Stewart, Lingerfelt was hit by Stewart as the driver left his pit, breaking Lingerfelt’s leg. Late last year, Lingerfelt suffered a shoulder injury during pit practice, and he is still recovering from surgery.

There are key changes beyond the loss of one team member. In the past, the fueler has been allowed to make chassis adjustments in addition to refueling the car; now that option is gone. And tire changers will use power guns supplied by NASCAR instead of guns owned and modified by each team.

The changes haven’t been greeted with universal praise in garage areas.

“They keep trying to make everything closer and closer together, and sometimes I feel like they do that, and other times I feel like they make it worse,” said driver Kyle Busch. “You’re only going to have so many guys that are going to be good at what they do. There are only so many tight ends in the NFL that are good at what they do. There’s five, maybe. And there are 32 teams.

“We’ve got 40 teams, and there’s probably going to be only five or six guys that can do their roles at our level. With the rest, it’s going to get pretty bad pretty quick with guys not being able to do it, or there’s going to be injuries, too. We’ll see how all that goes.”

At least in the season’s early weeks, teams are likely to address the change in different ways. Some might blend the former roles of tire changer and tire carrier; others might decide to have one crew member carry two tires across the wall instead of one, as in the past.

The possibilities are numerous, and it’s certain that teams have tried many variations on the theme during off-season practice.

Although the change from team-supplied pit guns to NASCAR-supplied guns might seem minor, it could mean a significant difference to some tire changers, adding often critical fractions of a second to their work.

“The guns are very similar, but the parts and pieces are different when everyone had their own custom guns,” Papathanassiou said. “We have been customizing guns to the individual. They might prefer this or that. Now it’s the complete opposite. Now we have a gun that no one can touch until they get it an hour before the race.”

Lingerfelt said the new guns are heavier and slower. “You’ve already slowed the pit stop down by taking a person away, and now you can’t run the guns as fast as you’re used to,” he said.

NASCAR senior vice president of competition Scott Miller said the pit crew and pit gun changes should put a new emphasis on the athleticism of team members.

“I think the athletes are certainly part of the show and part of the story, and the more emphasis that we can put on their performance as opposed to a fast jack or a fast pit gun, the better the level playing field and the better stories we have to tell,” he said.

Teams are penalized when loose tires roll outside their pit box during stops, and Papathanassiou said some teams probably will spend additional time in the pits making sure tires are controlled with one less person on the task.

“Any time there’s a change, there’s an adjustment period to the change,” he said. “People are going to compensate by spending extra time and being extra safe.”

Young drivers strike back after Kyle Busch criticizes NASCAR’s promotional push

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA TODAY SPORTS)    —-    CHARLOTTE — Rising star Ryan Blaney shot back at former champion Kyle Busch Wednesday for criticizing NASCAR’s marketing emphasis on younger drivers.

Asked his opinion Tuesday on the public relations push to gain visibility for younger drivers, Busch called the approach “stupid,” complaining that NASCAR and speedways promote “all these younger guys for fans to figure out and pick up on and choose as their favorite driver. Some of these marketing campaigns, pushing these younger drivers, I would say is not all that fair.”

Blaney, 24 and one of the most promising of the younger group of drivers, said Busch might be out of the promotional spotlight because of choice.

“I think it’s good for the sport and myself,” Blaney said. “I can tell you personally he (Busch) doesn’t like doing a lot of stuff. That’s why they don’t ask him to do a lot of stuff. That kind of made me upset how he bashed that part of it, but to each his own.

“If he doesn’t want to do anything, so be it. I think it’s really important to have not only young drivers but all NASCAR drivers to be pushing to get to new demographics.

“I’m trying to do the best that I can at it.”

NASCAR executive vice president Steve Phelps, the organization’s top marketing official, said promotion of the sport’s veteran drivers is “an important element” but added that the stories of younger drivers also are a key.

“Our marketing has traditionally been kind of a combination of deference to the younger drivers, probably a little more emphasis on the veteran drivers just because we haven’t had a group or crop of young drivers previously that we’ve had in the last couple years,” Phelps said.

Phelps admitted that NASCAR did not provide heavy publicity boosts to young drivers during Busch’s early years. “I think it was a miss on our part,” he said. “Until four or five years ago, most of our marketing was about the racing itself and pretty pictures around the racing. It wasn’t about the stars of our sport.”

Phelps said NASCAR began talking more about younger drivers after relative unknown Trevor Bayne, then 20, scored an upset win in the 2011 Daytona 500.

NASCAR announces start times, TV networks for 2018 Cup season

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports)   —   The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series announced Monday the start times and TV and radio networks for the 2018 season.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feb. 18: Daytona 500, 2:30, Fox (MRN)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NASCAR finale a respite from exodus of stars

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HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) — As Kyle Busch walked off the stage following the final race of the year, a NASCAR official told the driver he would see him next season.

“If I don’t retire,” Busch said.

Ummm, what?

“Wouldn’t be the first guy,” Busch quipped.

Busch was probably just making a joke about Carl Edwards, who lost last year’s championship then abruptly retired right before the start of this season. His decision sparked a radical makeover in which NASCAR’s longtime stars are being replaced by fresh-faced newcomers.

The season finale on Sunday brought an end to the full-time racing careers of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Danica Patrick and Matt Kenseth. Tony Stewart retired right before Edwards did. Jeff Gordon walked away after 2015.

The changing of the guard has raised red flags through NASCAR all season long, though championship weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway briefly calmed any concerns. NASCAR crowned three new champions across its national series and celebrated a pair of first-time race winners.

Christopher Bell opened the weekend by winning the Truck Series championship, while Chase Briscoe went to victory lane for the first time in his career. Both drivers are 22 and headed to the Xfinity Series next year, Bell for Joe Gibbs Racing and Briscoe in a shared ride announced by Roush Fenway Racing. Briscoe will share the seat with 18-year-old Austin Cindric and Ty Majeski, who is 23.

William Byron won the Xfinity championship while Cole Custer won his first series race. Both are 19. Byron is going Cup racing next year for Hendrick Motorsports and Custer has a long future in the Stewart-Haas Racing organization.

Martin Truex Jr., a journeyman in NASCAR, closed the weekend with his first Cup championship . Although he is 37, he beat three former champions, Busch included.

Chairman Brian France wasn’t concerned about not having proper replacements during this exodus of stars.

“Go down the list, we’ve got a loaded group,” France said before Sunday’s finale. “We’re in a transition. But that happens from time to time. Not usually in the concentrated manner that we have now, but it happens. But we’re excited — we’ve got a great, great bunch of (young drivers) and they’re talented, so we’re in good shape.”

The sentiment was echoed by Roger Penske, who has primed himself for the future with a stout lineup. Although Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski are considered series veterans, Logano is only 27 and Keselowski is 33. Added to the mix next year will be 23-year-old Ryan Blaney, rapidly establishing himself as a future star.

His buddies are in the Cup Series, too. Chase Elliott drives for Hendrick Motorsports and narrowly missed a spot in the championship finale, while Darrell Wallace Jr. will drive for Richard Petty Motorsports next season.

Kyle Larson is 24 and the star at Chip Ganassi Racing, while Richard Childress has both of his grandsons to carry the family race team far into the future.

Stewart, co-owner of Custer’s team, has a different view now that he is out of the driver’s seat. He noted that much of the buzz surrounding Homestead was about Earnhardt’s final race, but as he celebrated Custer’s first career Xfinity win, he said the sport is healthy with talent.

“There’s a great crop of young guys coming into the sport,” Stewart said. “The sport is going to be just fine. There’s plenty of good talent that’s coming along that are making names for themselves that will take the places of the guys that are leaving.”

Stewart then told a story straight out of “Days of Thunder,” in which he claimed he was summoned NASCAR’s headquarters in Daytona Beach for a lecture from France.

“He told me something that always stuck with me. He said, ‘This sport has been here long before you got here, and it’ll be here long after you’re gone.’ It really is the truth,” Stewart said. “There were great drivers here before I got here, and there’s great drivers coming behind us.”


More AP Auto Racing:

NASCAR title caps dramatic season for Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing

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(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports)   —   HOMESTEAD, Fla. — A Canadian crew chief led a Toyota driver from New Jersey and a team based in Denver to a championship.

This certainly isn’t your father’s NASCAR.

To say that Martin Truex Jr., crew chief Cole Pearn and the rest of the Furniture Row Racing team wrote a spectacular finish to an unlikely story in winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship Sunday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway is to understate the fact.

The team became the first Cup organization based outside North Carolina to win the championship since Bill Elliott’s team, located in the mountains of north Georgia, scored in 1988.

They were the stars of the show virtually all season, winning eight races and often dominating in obnoxious fashion. Then Truex closed it out Sunday night by refusing to wilt under the significant pressure applied by Kyle Busch, the driver you don’t want chasing you in pursuit of a championship in the closing laps.

Now, the celebration. It will culminate Nov. 28-30 in Las Vegas as the sport honors its new champion, a smart driver who graduated from the old Busch North Series to leave behind what might have been a career working on his father’s clam boats on the Atlantic.

There are NASCAR team owners and crew chiefs who will say the 2018 season began Monday, one day after Truex finished off 2017. There are cars to build, mechanics to hire, sponsors to find, plans to make for the long season to come.

Pearn, a champion crew chief for the first time, says bologna to all that.

In past years, championship crew chiefs have said they couldn’t wait to get back to the shop to start work on the next season.

Pearn? Don’t unlock the shop doors.

“We just won a championship in NASCAR,” said Pearn, his Furniture Row T-shirt soaked in champagne. “Are you kidding me? I don’t really give a crap what we do next week.”

Truex and Pearn won eight times across a season of stress and strain. Crewman Jim Watson died of a heart attack at Kansas Speedway. Team owner Barney Visser suffered a heart attack and had surgery, missing the final two races of the year, including Sunday’s rush to glory. Pearn’s best friend died of a bacterial infection. And Truex and his girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, suffered a setback — and endured another surgery — in her long fight against ovarian cancer.

If any championship deserves an extended celebration, it’s this one. And Truex promised late Sunday night that part one of the party would last long into Monday morning before he left for New York City for the annual champion’s media blitz.

In quieter moments, team members will reflect on the remarkable thing they accomplished.

It was ludicrous to imagine that a small team based in Denver could win a Cup championship in competition with the bigger, more veteran teams based in and around Charlotte. For example, Furniture Row is a team that uses team owner Visser’s furniture-hauling trucks to transport parts across the country, suspension pieces sharing space with sofas.

Because virtually every other Cup team of significance is headquartered within 50 miles of Charlotte, the top mechanics and engineers tend to live and work in that circle.

None of that mattered to Truex, Pearn and their guys. One thousand and six hundred miles from Charlotte, they became more than a race team — something closer to a close-knit family. In the end, working for a New Jersey driver and a crew chief from, of all places, Canada, they ran past and over the competition and brought a championship home to the Rockies.

“I never would have dreamt that this would have been possible, especially growing up where I did in Canada,” Pearn said. “That’s kind of unheard of to break into a predominantly Southern sport and then to do it as a team in Colorado and win a championship. I’m definitely going to take some time for reflection on that and think about what we’ve accomplished before we worry about 2018.”

In a sweet twist of irony, Truex, whose car number is 78, led 78 laps in winning Sunday’s finale.

The last lap he drove in a fog of emotion.

“I took the checkered flag and I was just junk,” he said. “ Like I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t think. I had no idea what to do. I was bawling like a little kid. It was insane, and I don’t even know why. All the things I’ve been through flashed through my head. All the people that have got me here flashed through my head.

“There’s so many things along the way that led me down this path, that got me here tonight, so many people that sacrificed things to get me here, and all those things flashed through my head. It was just more than I could handle. But it felt pretty damned good. As bad as it hurt, it felt damned good. Crazy.”

Crazy. Perhaps the best adjective for an extraordinary race day. And season.

*-111617-nascar-finale xfinity

HOMESTEAD, Fla. — NASCAR chairman Brian France Sunday acknowledged the impact of the departure of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and other drivers but said the sport is “in good shape” with the arrival of a group of young, talented drivers.

In his annual state-of-the-sport press conference at Homestead-Miami Speedway on the final day of the season, France said NASCAR is reacting to changes in how fans “consume” the sport and the realities of a sponsorship landscape that continues to be difficult.

With Earnhardt Jr. and fellow veteran Matt Kenseth racing for probably the final time Sunday, and with Danica Patrick ending her run as a full-time driver, the transition from this season to 2018 will be dramatic. Young drivers like William Byron, Alex Bowman, Erik Jones, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney will be expected to fill some of the void.

“They (younger drivers) are here, and they’ve got to develop their performance, but they’re doing well,” France said. “You look at Ryan Blaney, you look at Chase almost making the final here in Miami. Go down the list. We’ve got a loaded group.

“We’re in a transition, too, but that happens from time to time – not usually in the concentrated manner that we have now, but it happens.”

NASCAR President Brent Dewar echoed France’s remarks.

“We feel pretty bullish about the future of the sport for the talent they have,” he said. “They’re embracing this format where every lap matters. It truly matters. I think there was a learning process at the start of the year, and I think they’ll hit Daytona (in February), all of them, with that learned behavior pretty quick.”

France said race attendance is up at “many, many events” and that television ratings don’t reveal how fans watch the sport on other devices.

Speedway Motorsports Inc., which operates Charlotte Motor Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and other tracks, said revenues were down 7.5% and admissions down 4.3% from 2016 to 2017. International Speedway Corp., owner of tracks at Daytona Beach, Homestead and other locations, said in its third-quarter report that television viewership of races is down 10%.

“There’s always a peak and valley with sponsorship,” France said. “We’ll get through it. It’s not an abnormal peak and valley.”

Asked about the possibility of adding more short-track races to the Cup schedule, an idea often supported in fan surveys, France said schedule realignment within current track ownership groups is always a possibility.

“Everyone has got their own favorites, but we love short-track racing,” he said. “We’ll have to see how that goes.”

NASCAR: Martin Truex Jr. caps career season with 1st NASCAR title

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HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) — NASCAR’s newest champion wouldn’t take his helmet off.

He couldn’t.

If he did, then everyone would see Martin Truex Jr. cry.

Truex capped the most successful season of his journeyman career as NASCAR’s champion Sunday, then struggled to start the celebration. He was mobbed on the frontstretch by his Furniture Row Racing team, and after his girlfriend pushed through the crowd to get to him, he finally pulled the helmet and black visor off to show his face.

Truex was sobbing.

“I was a mess. I couldn’t even talk,” Truex said. “I was a wreck thinking about all the tough days, the bad days, the times where I thought my career was over with, the times when I didn’t think anyone believed in me, but the guys, the people who mattered did, my fans, my family.

“Then when I got with this team … they resurrected my career and made me a champion.”

Truex won his first Cup title by winning the finale, beating Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski for the championship. The other three were former champions. Truex was the favorite .

He thrived in that role, didn’t flinch when fellow Toyota driver Busch tried to use a different pit strategy to steal the race and then held off a hard-charging Busch over the final 12 laps to capture the title.

It was the eighth win of the season for Truex and first championship for Denver-based Furniture Row Racing. It was the second title in three years for manufacturer Toyota.

“Just a dream season. I was going to be gutted if we didn’t win,” Truex said. “We gave it our all, and it was enough tonight.”

Busch finished second for Joe Gibbs Racing as Toyota, the most dominant manufacturer this season, went 1-2 in the finale.

Kyle Larson, who was eliminated from the playoffs last month, finished third in a Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing. Harvick, seeking his second title, was fourth in a Stewart-Haas Racing Ford.

Keselowski wound up seventh and was stopped short in trying to give Team Penske a season sweep of the two top American racing series. Penske won the IndyCar title in September.

Truex’s victory also denied Ford its third win of the weekend. Ford drivers won the Truck Series race and the Xfinity Series race. The manufacturer has not won a Cup title since 2004.

But it may not have even had a chance Sunday because that’s how strong Truex has been all year . Through his tears, he tried to express what this season — a year in which longtime partner Sherry Pollex suffered a recurrence of ovarian cancer — has meant.

“A lot of it was for (Pollex). A lot of it was for me. A lot of it was for this team,” Truex said. “I’ve wanted this since I was a little kid. Just never give up on your dreams no matter what happens and what kind of crap you go through.”

Missing from the celebration party was Furniture Row team owner Barney Visser. He suffered a heart attack two weeks ago and is sidelined in Colorado. After pouring millions into his race team, Visser watched it win its first championship on television.

Truex led nearly every statistical category this year, including wins, laps led and stage victories. Heading into Homestead, six of Truex’s wins came on 1 1/2-mile tracks, the same layout as Homestead. Now seven of his career-best eight wins are on those sized tracks.

“I mean, yeah, they’ve had the fastest car all year, so it was good to see him win,” said Harvick.

Keselowski reiterated that he believed the redesigned Toyota Camry has had an advantage over the competition since it debuted this season, and Chevrolet will catch up with its new Camaro next year. Ford has no plans for a redesign.

“I don’t think anyone really ever had a shot this year the second that (Camry) got put on the racetrack and approved,” Keselowski said. “It kind of felt like Formula 1 where you had one car that made it through the gates heads and tails above everyone and your hands are tied because you’re not allowed to do anything to the cars in those categories that NASCAR approves to really catch up.”

It was the final race as full-time drivers for Dale Earnhardt Jr., the most popular in NASCAR , as well as Danica Patrick and Matt Kenseth. Earnhardt retired after his 25th-place finish.

Patrick blew a tire and wrecked , finishing 37th. The only woman to lead laps in the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500, Patrick said in a tearful news conference this weekend that she would race only in those two events next season and then retire.

Kenseth, who finished 15th, has no ride lined up for next year and said he will take time away from NASCAR.

Earnhardt’s final ride slightly overshadowed the championship race, but he tried to put the focus back on good friend Truex afterward. He drove up alongside Truex, hit his car in celebration and talked after the race about his happiness for Truex. Truex won two Xfinity Series championships driving for Earnhardt early in his career.

With a cooler of beer propped on the trunk of his race car, Earnhardt chugged several then partied with his crew and fans as Truex collected the Cup trophy.

“I was glad to have a hand in getting his career started, I am so proud of him,” Earnhardt said. “This sport needs drivers like Martin Truex Jr., and everything that he went through as a driver, and everything he went through in his personal life, and everything Sherry has gone through, it’s just great. And they (Furniture Row) are the outsiders up there in Colorado, came down here and beat all of us from North Carolina.”

Even with that early success when driving for Earnhardt’s second-tier team, Truex’s career never took off. He had a ride with Dale Earnhardt Inc., which closed and was folded into the Ganassi lineup. He finally found some success after signing with Michael Waltrip Racing, but he got snared in an MWR cheating scandal in 2013 that ultimately cost Truex his job and led to the eventual shutdown of the organization.

He acknowledged earlier this week that he worried he’d never race again at NASCAR’s top level, at least until Visser called.

Pollex reminded Truex of how far they’ve come when she embraced him.

“I told him ‘That’s why you never give up,'” she said. “That’s been our motto all along, ever since I started my cancer battle. We were never going to give up, and we didn’t. Everybody is battling something, everybody is fighting something in their life, not just cancer, but any kind of struggle that they’re going through in their life.

“We always say if you can fight a struggle with a positive attitude and just have a smile on your face and find the good and the silver lining in everything, in the end you’ll come out and karma will pay you back and good things will happen to you.”


FAREWELL DALE: NASCAR’s 14-time Most Popular Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. said goodbye to full-time Cup Series racing Sunday with a 25th-place finish in the 2017 season finale. But the result was less important than the tributes to the son of a racing legend who galvanized his own legion of fans. Ford drivers performed a series of burnouts on the backstretch that culminated in an “88” carved onto the track. And the fans got their turn, shouting and cheering their appreciation to Junior during driver introductions and on pre-race laps. Earnhardt retires from the Cup Series after 18+seasons, 26 wins and 260 top-10 finishes in 631 races.

“I didn’t cry until I hugged (team owner) Rick’s (Hendrick) neck,” Earnhardt said. “He’s been like a father to me. He’s really, really helped me more than anyone will know. I will miss trying to make him proud on the racetrack. I’ll miss driving his cars.”

STAGE TWO: Larson made it a sweep of stages one and two by leading Truex to the end of the second stage. Completing the top five were Harvick, Kyle Busch and Keselowski.

PATRICK PARKS: Danica Patrick’s career as a full-time driver ended on lap 142 when her car hit the outside wall in turn two after blowing a right-rear tire. Kasey Kahne ran into the rear of Patrick’s car. The result was the race’s third caution. Patrick, who climbed out of her car as a small fire in the right front caused smoke, plans to compete in only the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500 next season.

“I hit the wall in three and four and got some fender rub on the tire, and it blew the tire,” Patrick said. “I went a couple of laps and there was smoke in the car, but they thought it was all right, but it wasn’t. … That sucks, but I think that what’s coming ahead is bright for me and for the way it feels, so I’m excited.”

CLOSE CALL: Kyle Busch avoided disaster on lap 122 when he barely missed hitting the sand barrels along pit road as he dropped off the track to pit.

STAGE ONE: Larson dominated the first stage, leading 68 of the 80 laps and winning the stage over Keselowski. The other Final Four contenders also were strong, with Busch finishing third, Harvick fourth and Truex fifth. Truex was the only other driver leading laps (12) in the stage.



Sunday from the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway (starting position in parentheses):

1. (2) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 267 laps, 40 points.

2. (3) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 267, 35.

3. (7) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 267, 54.

4. (9) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 267, 33.

5. (18) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 267, 39.

6. (19) Joey Logano, Ford, 267, 36.

7. (5) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 267, 30.

8. (4) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 267, 33.

9. (1) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 267, 32.

10. (21) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 267, 27.

11. (17) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 267, 26.

12. (16) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 267, 26.

13. (13) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 266, 24.

14. (26) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 266, 23.

15. (6) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, 266, 22.

16. (15) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 265, 21.

17. (30) David Ragan, Ford, 265, 20.

18. (20) Aric Almirola, Ford, 265, 19.

19. (12) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 265, 18.

20. (29) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 265, 17.

21. (14) Erik Jones, Toyota, 265, 16.

22. (8) Kurt Busch, Ford, 265, 24.

23. (28) Landon Cassill, Ford, 265, 14.

24. (23) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 265, 13.

25. (24) Dale Earnhardt Jr, Chevrolet, 264, 12.

26. (32) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 264, 11.

27. (22) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 264, 10.

28. (33) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 264, 9.

29. (11) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 264, 8.

30. (31) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 263, 7.

31. (34) Corey Lajoie, Toyota, 261, 0.

32. (36) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 259, 5.

33. (27) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, accident, 234, 4.

34. (10) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, brakes, 225, 3.

35. (37) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, engine, 212, 2.

36. (38) David Starr, Chevrolet, brakes, 175, 0.

37. (25) Danica Patrick, Ford, accident, 139, 1.

38. (39) Ray Black Jr, Chevrolet, garage, 49, 0.

39. (35) Joey Gase, Toyota, accident, 4, 0.


Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 131.893 mph.

Time of Race: 3 hours, 2 minutes, 11 seconds.

Margin of Victory: 0.681 seconds.

Caution Flags: 5 for 26 laps.

Lead Changes: 13 among 5 drivers.

Lap Leaders: D.Hamlin 0; M.Truex 1-12; K.Larson 13-82; B.Keselowski 83; K.Larson 84-121; Ky.Busch 122-123; K.Larson 124-145; Ky.Busch 146; K.Larson 147-161; M.Truex 162-175; Ky.Busch 176; M.Truex 177; Ky.Busch 178-216; M.Truex 217-267

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): K.Larson, 4 times for 141 laps; M.Truex, 4 times for 74 laps; Ky.Busch, 4 times for 39 laps; D.Hamlin, 1 time for 0 laps; B.Keselowski, 1 time for 0 laps.

Wins: M.Truex, 8; Ky.Busch, 5; K.Larson, 4; J.Johnson, 3; B.Keselowski, 3; D.Hamlin, 2; K.Harvick, 2; R.Stenhouse, 2; R.Blaney, 1; Ku.Busch, 1; A.Dillon, 1; K.Kahne, 1; M.Kenseth, 1; J.Logano, 1; R.Newman, 1.

Top 16 in Points: 1. M.Truex, 5040; 2. Ky.Busch, 5035; 3. K.Harvick, 5033; 4. B.Keselowski, 5030; 5. C.Elliott, 2377; 6. D.Hamlin, 2353; 7. M.Kenseth, 2344; 8. K.Larson, 2320; 9. R.Blaney, 2305; 10. J.Johnson, 2260; 11. A.Dillon, 2224; 12. J.McMurray, 2224; 13. R.Stenhouse, 2222; 14. Ku.Busch, 2217; 15. K.Kahne, 2198; 16. R.Newman, 2196.

NASCAR closing in on crowning Cup champion

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MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) — NASCAR’s four championship contenders were seated elbow-to-elbow previewing their upcoming title race when they were asked to give one word to describe the season.

“Amazing,” said Martin Truex Jr.

Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick both said the season was “long,” while Kyle Busch went with “trying.” But Truex? Well, he’s got nothing to complain about after a truly dominating season.

Truex goes into Sunday’s finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway as the clear favorite to win the title. He has a series best seven wins and six were at 1.5-mile tracks. Homestead is a 1.5-mile track.

He leads the series in nearly every meaningful statistic, and if the points earned all season weren’t reset for Sunday’s finale, he’d have already won his first Cup title.

“If it wasn’t set back at zero, we’d probably all be congratulating Martin right now,” said Keselowski. “But it is.”

So it’s winner-take-all race, and everything Truex has built this season is on the line. He faces three former series champions, each of them looking for their second title.

For Harvick, it would be the first in Stewart-Haas Racing’s new partnership with Ford. If Harvick wins, it will be SHR’s third championship since 2011, second since the elimination format was introduced in 2014 and first for a team in a first-year relationship with a manufacturer since Cale Yarborough in 1978.

Keselowski is seeking a crown to go with his 2012 title, which was not won under this format. He had to beat Jimmie Johnson that day on points, and pulled it off. He will try to give team owner Roger Penske two major championships this year. Penske won the IndyCar title with Josef Newgarden earlier this year.

If either Harvick or Keselowski wins, it would be the first title for Ford since 2004.

They are up against a pair of Toyotas, the dominant manufacturer this season.

Busch is seeking a repeat of his 2015 title, which some have marked with an asterisk. Busch missed the first third of the season with injuries suffered in a season-opening race at Daytona, but still raced himself into title contention on a shortened schedule.

And he’s chasing Truex, who has taken his Furniture Row Racing team to a level beyond the alliance it has with Joe Gibbs Racing. Busch has been good this season, but he’s not had anything close to the year that Truex has put together. With Truex such the clear favorite, it made for quiet media day for the championship competitors. — except when Busch and Keselowski were asked why they have never squashed their rivalry.

Keselowski tried to downplay a feud. Busch didn’t mince words.

“Sometimes you just don’t like a guy, fact of the matter,” Busch said. “I never ran into Matt Kenseth, I don’t think Matt Kenseth ever ran into me, so there is a respect factor out there on the race track and you certainly do a better job sometimes when you’re around some of those guys that you may or may not necessarily like. But as once a wise man told me, I think it was Chase Elliott, I race those like they race me.”

Elliott used that line last week to address his aggressive racing with Denny Hamlin that cost Hamlin a shot at the title. It was retaliation for Hamlin wrecking Elliott out of the lead at Martinsville earlier in the playoffs.

How aggressive can the contenders be Sunday to win the championship?

“I mean, I’m willing to try to go win the race,” said Keselowski. “When it comes down to the end of the race, I don’t think anyone really knows that answer until it’s right in front of them.”

Truex knew what the crowd wanted to hear.

“I’ll wreck any damn one of these three,” he joked.

Then he was serious.

“I’m going to race these guys just like I do every single week,” Truex said. “I have not thought about any desperation moves. I don’t plan on being in that position. I think a perfect scenario is to go out there and race them heads up and beat them fair and square. That’s how I approach racing. That’s how I plan on doing it Sunday.”


Back in the February chill of Daytona Beach and the optimism-filled days leading to the season-opening Daytona 500, dozens of drivers were eligible for the big trophy that will be in the hands of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup champion Sunday night.

Now, the season in twilight and 35 points races having been contested, that field has been reduced to four — former champions Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski and non-champion (but perhaps favored this time) Martin Truex Jr.

After three rounds of practice, qualifying and endless talk about the championship, the Final Four will race over 267 laps and 400.5 miles Sunday with the top stock car racing title in the world going to the one of the four who finishes highest. Winning isn’t necessary, although it’s been standard in this competition, so drivers and crew chiefs aim for that.

The title will be decided at Homestead-Miami Speedway, a tough 1.5-mile track 300 miles south of Daytona International Speedway, where it all began.

Mayhem might ensue.


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