(PhatzRadio Sports / AP) —- BRISTOL, Tenn. — Five takeaways from the Bristol Motor Speedway race week, with Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams preparing to enjoy a rare weekend off before the Sept. 3 Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington, S.C.:
ALL KYLE ALL THE TIME: The smoke, confetti and M&M’s had barely cleared after Kyle Busch’s victory Saturday night when rising star Kyle Larson posted this tweet about Busch: “Love him or late him I feel he is the most all around talented driver I will ever witness in my lifetime. Congratulations @KyleBusch”
And Larson, only 25, presumably will see many other drivers before his final laps.
That’s sparkling praise from a fellow competitor, but it’s difficult to downplay Busch’s Bristol extravaganza – three wins in four days. He is one of the best racers in the long history of one of NASCAR’s most challenging tracks.
It’s the second time Busch has accomplished the Bristol sweep. He called it “Bristol Sweep 2.0” and judged it to be more important than the first because his son, Brexton, was in attendance. Brexton clearly enjoyed his father tossing him into the air in victory lane, a family tradition that might become more difficult when Brexton is 15.
OLD 20 VS. NEW 20: Matt Kenseth, driving for a final season in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota, dueled Erik Jones in tight quarters over the closing laps Saturday night. It was a bit uncomfortable for both because Jones has been named to replace Kenseth in the 20 next season.
The two sat side-by-side in a post-race news conference, and Jones was asked about bumping Kenseth slightly.
This exchange followed:
Jones: “I didn’t mean to hit Matt.”
Kenseth: “Did you hit me?”
Jones: “Just barely.”
Kenseth, laughing: “Didn’t remember. Shouldn’t have brought it up. Now I’m mad. Takes my ride and runs into me.”
TWO TO GO: The Cup Series is off this weekend, giving drivers and mechanics some time to recharge before the final races of the regular season – Sept. 3 at Darlington, S.C. and Sept. 9 at Richmond, Va.
The potential grid for the 16-driver playoff didn’t change with the results of Saturday’s race. Thirteen drivers are in with victories, and, in the current standings, Chase Elliott, Kenseth and Jamie McMurray would take the final three spots based on points unless a new winner emerges at Darlington or Richmond.
Kenseth improved his position Saturday. He entered the race 31 points in front of Clint Bowyer, the first driver below the cutoff line, and left Bristol 61 ahead. Elliott leads Bowyer by 69, and McMurray is 58 in front of Bowyer.
DOWNER FOR DALE JR.: The best part of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Saturday unfortunately occurred before the race. A card stunt organized by the speedway gave him a huge “Thank You Dale Jr.” salute on the frontstretch.
Earnhardt was never a factor in the race, finishing 23rd, three laps down.
“We’re struggling,” he admitted after the race. “Gosh, I just don’t know what to do.”
The winless Earnhardt is 22nd in points and hasn’t finished in the top five since the season’s seventh race at Texas Motor Speedway. He needs a win at Darlington or Richmond to make the playoffs and get one final shot at the championship his father won seven times.
DALE JR. SUPPORTS IVES: Some Earnhardt Jr. fans have blamed crew chief Greg Ives for the team’s disappointing season, but the driver jumped on Twitter after Saturday night’s race to defend Ives.
“Yep. Not allowing him to take the fall for this,” Earnhardt tweeted. “There are many reasons a team performs poorly. Rarely, is it one persons fault … He is a talent and when he gets things figured out with Alex [Bowman] in 2018 everyone will have forgotten the struggles of 2017.”
Bowman is scheduled to replace Earnhardt in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet next year.
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BRISTOL, Tenn. (AP) — Erik Jones really needed to win, and Kyle Busch would have loved to celebrate the first Cup win for the kid he discovered.
But this is Bristol Motor Speedway, and Busch practically owns the place.
Busch swept the weekend for the second time in his career by winning the Monster Energy Cup Series race Saturday night. He also won in the Truck Series on Wednesday night and the Xfintiy Series on Friday night . He’s the only driver to pull off the sweep, and he also did it in 2010.
Busch toyed with the crowd, which had equal cheers and boos, by cupping his ear to the fans who disapproved of the win.
“So proud of Rowdy Nation. This one’s for you!” he shouted.
And the haters?
“I don’t care. All noise is good noise,” he said.
He then collected a broom from an onlooker to commemorate the sweep.
Busch admitted this win was the most difficult of the week because of the race he had with rookie Erik Jones, his protege, future teammate and fellow Toyota driver. Jones led the most laps and the rookie believes he needs a victory to lock up his spot in the playoffs.
“Erik Jones put up a whale of a fight,” said Busch. “I was running with my tongue hanging out, my arms were Jell-O and my throat hurts.”
Busch won for the 40th time in the Cup Series, sixth time at Bristol in Cup, and second time this season. All told, he’s won 20 times across NASCAR’s national series at the Tennessee bullring.
Jones settled for second, one spot short of his first career victory. He led a race-high 260 laps and felt it had been his best chance to date to win a Cup race.
He was admittedly disappointed to fall a spot short.
“You don’t want to sound like you’re whining or being a sore loser by saying it sucks to run second, but it’s a bummer. It hurts,” Jones said. “This was the first shot that I really had to come really close to it in the Cup Series. It’s Kyle Busch. He won all three races here this weekend.”
Jones conceded how difficult it is to beat Busch anywhere, particularly at Bristol. Busch is also Jones’ former boss, and Jones was amazed at Busch’s ability to win three national NASCAR races in four nights.
Jones said he’s done a triple-duty weekend before, and “it was something I honestly never want to do again, so I respect him for that.”
“He’s a hardcore racer, he really commits himself to that and he does a really good job that he doesn’t let it affect his Cup racing, at all,” Jones said.
Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth were third and fourth as Joe Gibbs Racing took the win and two other spots inside the top four, while all four drivers were in Toyotas.
Busch passed Jones for the lead with 55 laps remaining as the track changed and the top lane became the preferable spot. Jones’ car didn’t handle as well in that area, and he had Busch and Kenseth all over his bumper. It was Busch who moved from third to first, but Jones didn’t relent.
He chased Kenseth after Kenseth moved into second, but Jones ultimately gouged Kenseth out of his way. It put Jones in the middle of a weird JGR sandwich. In front of him, Busch, the driver who launched Jones’ career and future teammate, and Kenseth, the guy Jones is replacing next season who is looking for 2018 employment.
Hamlin eventually took position from Kenseth, but it was so obviously a night for Toyota.
Martin Truex Jr. finished 21st and did not clinch the regular-season title.
AWKWARD: Jones has already been announced as Kenseth’s replacement, and Kenseth sounded postrace like a driver who might be in his final year.
So it could have been weird when the two were seated next to each other in a post-race news conference. Instead, Kenseth was in a great mood and cracked jokes about Jones bumping him during the race.
“Didn’t remember. Shouldn’t have brought it up. Now I’m mad,” Kenseth joked. “Takes my ride and runs into me.”
But Kenseth really was OK with his situation.
“Certainly I wanted to win tonight. I’d be happier if I would have won, but yeah, I’m pretty happy,” he smiled.
EARNHARDT’S FAREWELL: Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a terrible weekend in what is being billed as his final stop at Bristol before retirement. He wasn’t a factor in the Xfinity Series race, needed IV’s on Friday night for dehydration, and was an uncompetitive 23rd in the Cup race.
“We struggled,” he said. “We’re struggling, gosh, I just don’t know what to do. We were pretty quick for the first 20 laps, passed five cars and then we dropped like a rock. The thing would get so tight and wouldn’t turn.”
UP NEXT: NASCAR heads into its final off week before returing at Darlington Raceway on Sept. 3. Two races remain to qualify for the 16-driver playoff and three slots are available. Drivers who have qualified via wins include: Truex, Johnson, Larson, Kyle Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Keselowski, Dillon, Kasey Kahne, Kurt Busch, Blaney, Newman, Harvick and Hamlin.
(Starting positions in parentheses)
1. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 500.
2. (1) Erik Jones, Toyota, 500.
3. (7) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 500.
4. (5) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 500.
5. (25) Kurt Busch, Ford, 500.
6. (13) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 500.
7. (20) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 500.
8. (29) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 500.
9. (2) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 500.
10. (10) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 500.
11. (21) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 500.
12. (11) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 500.
13. (8) Joey Logano, Ford, 500.
14. (14) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 500.
15. (12) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 500.
16. (27) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 499.
17. (19) David Ragan, Ford, 499.
18. (4) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 499.
19. (9) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 499.
20. (26) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 499.
21. (6) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 499.
22. (23) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 498.
23. (31) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 497.
24. (3) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 497.
25. (24) Danica Patrick, Ford, 496.
26. (34) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 496.
27. (15) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 496.
28. (35) * Corey LaJoie, Toyota, 495.
29. (17) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 493.
30. (30) * JJ Yeley, Chevrolet, 493.
31. (37) * Gray Gaulding, Chevrolet, 488.
32. (36) * BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, 482.
33. (32) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 480.
34. (40) Joey Gase, Toyota, 476.
35. (33) Landon Cassill, Ford, Accident, 412.
36. (22) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, Accident, 394.
37. (28) Aric Almirola, Ford, Accident, 390.
38. (39) Reed Sorenson, Toyota, Transmission, 352.
39. (16) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, Accident, 230.
40. (38) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, Accident, 225.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 95.969 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 46 Mins, 37 Secs.
Margin of Victory: 1.422 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 8 for 53 laps.
Lead Changes: 21 among 6 drivers.
Lap Leaders: E. Jones 1-3; C. Elliott 4-5; E. Jones 6-50; K. Larson 51-63; E. Jones 64; K. Larson 65-114; Kyle Busch 115-117; K. Larson 118-124; Kyle Busch 125-129; E. Jones 130-166; Kyle Busch 167-179; E. Jones 180-197; Kyle Busch 198-202; E. Jones 203; Kyle Busch 204-240; E. Jones 241; M. Kenseth 242-252; R. Newman 253; E. Jones 254-360; Kyle Busch 361-397; E. Jones 398-444; Kyle Busch 445-500.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): E. Jones 9 times for 260 laps; Kyle Busch 7 times for 156 laps; K. Larson 3 times for 70 laps; M. Kenseth 1 time for 11 laps; C. Elliott 1 time for 2 laps; R. Newman 1 time for 1 lap.
BRISTOL, Tenn. (AP) — Kyle Busch continued his domination at Bristol Motor Speedway with a victory Friday night in the Xfinity Series race.
The win was the 19th national series victory at Bristol for Busch, who also won the Truck Series race Wednesday night. And just like that win, Busch had to overcome a speeding penalty on pit road to get to victory lane.
“Just a great car,” Busch said about his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
Busch won the first stage of the race and was then popped for speeding. He drove from 29th in line to the lead in 58 laps after the penalty, and won the second stage. Busch then drove away to an easy 91st career win in the Xfinity Series, and he’s said he will stop racing in the series once he hits 100 victories.
“This deal’s really special and you know we want to keep it going, but obviously the countdown is on,” Busch said.
He joked in victory lane the fans will be pleased when that day arrives. Busch will go for a Bristol sweep Saturday night in the Cup Series race, and thanked his supporters — dubbed “Rowdy Nation” — for cheering on his effort to sweep the weekend at Bristol.
“Hopefully we can close it out tomorrow,” said Busch, who will start 18th in Saturday night’s Cup race.
“I think we can. We’ve got a fast car. We just have to make the right adjustments overnight here and get it ready.”
On Friday night, he had one brief challenge, on a restart with nine laps remaining, but easily got by Daniel Suarez and wasn’t challenged.
Suarez finished second for a 1-2 finish for JGR and Toyota.
Elliott Sadler was third in a Chevrolet for JR Motorsports and clinched a spot in the Xfinity Series playoffs. He was followed by a slew of Chevy drivers: Ty Dillon, Justin Allgaier, Brennan Poole, Daniel Hemric and Austin Dillon.
Joey Logano was the highest-finishing driver for Ford in ninth, and Cole Custer rounded out the top 10.
But the night belonged to Busch, who led 186 of the 300 laps.
“He’s one step away from the sweep,” Allgaier said. “He had the best car.”
Friday At Bristol Motor Speedway, Bristol, Tenn.
Lap length: 0.533 miles (Start position in parentheses)
1. (1) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 300 laps, 0 rating, 0 points.
2. (7) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 300, 0, 0.
3. (8) Elliott Sadler, Chevrolet, 300, 0, 44.
4. (12) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 300, 0, 0.
5. (4) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 300, 0, 50.
6. (3) Brennan Poole, Chevrolet, 300, 0, 40.
7. (16) Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 300, 0, 34.
8. (11) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 300, 0, 0.
9. (2) Joey Logano, Ford, 300, 0, 0.
10. (5) Cole Custer, Ford, 300, 0, 28.
11. (6) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 300, 0, 35.
12. (23) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 300, 0, 25.
13. (17) Dale Earnhardt Jr, Chevrolet, 299, 0, 0.
14. (13) Blake Koch, Chevrolet, 299, 0, 23.
15. (20) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 299, 0, 22.
16. (25) JJ Yeley, Toyota, 299, 0, 21.
17. (15) Matt Tifft, Toyota, 298, 0, 20.
18. (14) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 298, 0, 19.
19. (24) Ben Kennedy, Chevrolet, 297, 0, 18.
20. (9) Brandon Jones, Chevrolet, 297, 0, 17.
21. (34) Ray Black Jr, Chevrolet, 297, 0, 16.
22. (19) William Byron, Chevrolet, 297, 0, 15.
23. (29) Spencer Gallagher, Chevrolet, 296, 0, 14.
24. (21) Dakoda Armstrong, Toyota, 296, 0, 13.
25. (38) Brandon Brown, Chevrolet, 294, 0, 12.
26. (28) BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, 291, 0, 11.
27. (39) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 290, 0, 10.
28. (31) Chad Finchum, Chevrolet, 289, 0, 9.
29. (22) Jeb Burton, Toyota, accident, 281, 0, 8.
30. (10) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, accident, 278, 0, 7.
31. (30) Harrison Rhodes, Chevrolet, suspension, 239, 0, 6.
32. (26) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 217, 0, 5.
33. (33) Tommy Joe Martins, Chevrolet, accident, 210, 0, 4.
34. (35) Garrett Smithley, Chevrolet, 204, 0, 3.
35. (40) Mike Harmon, Dodge, suspension, 80, 0, 2.
36. (37) Timmy Hill, Toyota, vibration, 56, 0, 1.
37. (27) Ryan Reed, Ford, accident, 38, 0, 1.
38. (18) Aric Almirola, Ford, accident, 25, 0, 0.
39. (32) Jeff Green, Chevrolet, overheating, 18, 0, 1.
40. (36) David Starr, Chevrolet, accident, 11, 0, 1.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 88.421 mph.
Time of Race: 1 hour, 48 minutes, 30 seconds.
Margin of Victory: 1.181 seconds.
Caution Flags: 8 for 46 laps.
Lead Changes: 11 among 4 drivers.
Lap Leaders: K.Busch 1-16; J.Allgaier 17-32; K.Busch 33-88; D.Suarez 89; J.Allgaier 90-148; D.Suarez 149-156; K.Busch 157-172; D.Suarez 173-186; E.Sadler 187-201; K.Busch 202-218; D.Suarez 219; K.Busch 220-300
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): K.Busch, 5 times for 181 laps; J.Allgaier, 2 times for 73 laps; D.Suarez, 4 times for 20 laps; E.Sadler, 1 time for 14 laps.
Wins: K.Busch, 5; W.Byron, 3; J.Allgaier, 1; A.Almirola, 1; J.Logano, 1; R.Reed, 1.
Top 10 in Points: 1. E.Sadler, 807; 2. W.Byron, 707; 3. J.Allgaier, 671; 4. B.Poole, 621; 5. D.Hemric, 601; 6. C.Custer, 533; 7. M.Tifft, 514; 8. R.Reed, 458; 9. B.Koch, 454; 10. D.Armstrong, 444.
NASCAR Driver Rating Formula
A maximum of 150 points can be attained in a race.
The formula combines the following categories: Wins, Finishes, Top-15 Finishes, Average Running Position While on Lead Lap, Average Speed Under Green, Fastest Lap, Led Most Laps, Lead-Lap Finish.
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BROOKLYN, Mich. (AP) — In his first NASCAR Truck Series race in three years, Darrell Wallace Jr. looked as if he had never left.
Wallace held off a late challenge from Christopher Bell to win Saturday at Michigan International Speedway. After taking the lead in his No. 99 Chevrolet with about 10 laps remaining, Wallace had to contend with Austin Cindric and Bell toward the end. He was able to edge Bell by 0.176 seconds.
“I knew those last laps were going to be hectic,” Wallace said.
Wallace hadn’t driven in a Truck race since 2014, when he won four times. He drove full time on the Xfinity Series in 2015 and 2016. He actually has a two-race winning streak in Truck races, since he won the finale three years ago.
Kyle Busch won the first two stages Saturday and looked dominant, but his car showed a bit of damage after an incident in which Cody Coughlin bounced hard off a barrier to the inside. Busch fought back but had to settle for third place in the 100-lap, 200-mile race.
Cindric led for a while, but when he and Bell fought for the lead with about 10 laps remaining, Wallace was able to pass them both .
“It came way too early. I did not want to make that move,” Wallace said. “But I also didn’t want to be a sitting duck and let that opportunity go to waste.”
Wallace, who is known by the nickname “Bubba,” now has six career Truck victories. Xfinity sponsorship dried up, and he has only 12 starts on that circuit this year. In June at Pocono , he became the first black driver to make a Cup start since 2006.
Wallace’s car was sponsored Saturday by Maestro’s Classic.
“For the rest of the year, I don’t know,” Wallace said. “Think we can line something up more with Maestro’s here. I think they’re all pumped up. I mean, I had to go out there and win for them, so they have to come back for a second one at least. … Nothing set in stone for right now. I’ll be on the sidelines again for three weeks, three months — who knows?”
Ryan Truex finished fourth, followed by Cindric and pole winner Matt Crafton.
WHO’S HOT: Bell, the points leader coming in, now leads by 37 over Johnny Sauter. He nearly got the better of Wallace at the end.
“I felt like I was in the perfect position to win the race, and just didn’t get it done,” Bell said. “I’m happy for Bubba. That’s really cool for him. He hasn’t Truck raced in a while, so to be able to hop back in one and win, that’s pretty cool for him.”
WHO’S NOT: John Hunter Nemechek made it through only four laps. An early spin left him with a 29th-place finish, and he dropped from fifth to eighth in the standings.
UP NEXT: The Truck Series races again right away, on Wednesday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Lap length: 2 miles
(Starting position in parentheses)
1. (9) Darrell Wallace Jr., Chevrolet, 100 laps.
2. (13) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 100.
3. (10) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 100.
4. (11) Ryan Truex, Toyota, 100.
5. (8) Austin Cindric, Ford, 100.
6. (1) Matt Crafton, Toyota, 100.
7. (5) Noah Gragson, Toyota, 100.
8. (6) Grant Enfinger, Toyota, 100.
9. (4) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 100.
10. (7) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 100.
11. (14) Ben Rhodes, Toyota, 100.
12. (12) Kaz Grala, Chevrolet, 100.
13. (16) Stewart Friesen, Chevrolet, 100.
14. (17) Tyler Young, Chevrolet, 100.
15. (20) Austin Wayne Self, Chevrolet, 100.
16. (19) TJ Bell, Chevrolet, 99.
17. (18) Wendell Chavous, Chevrolet, 99.
18. (2) Johnny Sauter, Chevrolet, 99.
19. (24) Josh Reaume, Chevrolet, 98.
20. (28) Norm Benning, Chevrolet, Vibration, 82.
21. (15) Cody Coughlin, Toyota, Accident, 65.
22. (29) Jennifer Jo Cobb, Chevrolet, Engine, 48.
23. (26) Jordan Anderson, Chevrolet, Engine, 33.
24. (22) BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, Vibration, 16.
25. (27) Camden Murphy, Chevrolet, Electrical, 12.
26. (21) Ray Ciccarelli, Chevrolet, Fuel Pump, 11.
27. (30) Mike Senica, Chevrolet, Brakes, 8.
28. (25) Todd Peck, Chevrolet, Engine, 5.
29. (3) John H. Nemechek, Chevrolet, Accident, 4.
30. (23) Joe Nemechek, Chevrolet, Vibration, 2.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 126.493 mph.
Time of Race: 1 hour, 34 minutes, 52 seconds.
Margin of Victory: 0.176-seconds.
Caution Flags: 5 for 23 laps.
Lead Changes: 7 among 7 drivers.
Lap Leaders: M. Crafton 1-10; C. Briscoe 11; J. Sauter 12; C. Briscoe 13-15; K. Busch 16-62; J. Haley 63-65; A. Cindric 66-89; D. Wallace Jr. 90-100.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): K. Busch 1 time for 47 laps; A. Cindric 1 time for 24 laps; D. Wallace Jr. 1 time for 11 laps; M. Crafton 1 time for 10 laps; C. Briscoe 2 times for 4 laps; J. Haley 1 time for 3 laps; J. Sauter 1 time for 1 lap.
Driver Standings: 1. C.Bell, 572; 2. J.Sauter, 535; 3. M.Crafton, 510; 4. C.Briscoe, 509; 5. R.Truex, 431; 6. B.Rhodes, 426; 7. G.Enfinger, 412; 5. J.H.Nemechek, 404; 9. N.Gragson, 382; 10. A.Cindric, 361.
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LONDON (AP) — Olivier Giroud completed an exhilarating comeback as Arsenal beat Leicester 4-3 on Friday to ensure Arsene Wenger’s side opened the English Premier League with a victory for only the second time in eight seasons.
Arsenal turned around the league’s first Friday opener in the closing minutes at Emirates Stadium. After Aaron Ramsey leveled in the 83rd minute, Giroud sealed the three points with a header inside two minutes on an evening of thrilling attacks gifted by fragile defending.
Arsenal record-signing Alexandre Lacazette launched his Premier League career in style by heading in the opener after 94 seconds.
A predictable Arsenal implosion followed, with Shinji Okazaki and Jamie Vardy putting Leicester in front. Even after Danny Welbeck leveled on the stroke of halftime, Vardy restored Leicester’s lead after the break.
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But Leicester, which so astonishingly won the league in 2016, couldn’t hold on for its first win at Arsenal since 1973. Instead, Wenger avoided a third consecutive season-opening loss at the start of his new two-year contract.
The Frenchman will be hoping it’s a sign of changing fortunes after a season when he reached his nadir. Although Arsenal signed off in May by lifting the FA Cup, a fifth-place finish ensured the north London club failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in two decades.
This was the perfect lift-off for Arsenal, particularly for Lacazette.
The first touch from the 60 million euros ($68 million) signing was at kickoff. His second was to meet Mohamed Elneny’s cross with a powerful header past goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.
Lacazette, recruited from Lyon, savored the moment, opening his arms out wide to take in the acclamation of his new home.
Arsenal’s defense, though, was still on its summer break.
Just 160 seconds after Lacazette scored, Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech was picking the ball out of his net. Harry Maguire nodded Marc Albrighton’s cross back into the path of Okazaki who headed Leicester level.
Before completing a half-hour of the season, Arsenal was trailing. Again, Albrighton was the architect, afforded far too much space to rampage down the left flank before crossing low for Vardy to turn the ball into the net.
How quickly optimism faded as Arsenal’s enduring defensive flaws were exposed so soon. There was a lifeline for Wenger before halftime when Welbeck met Sead Kolasinac’s cross to tap in an equalizer.
Leicester, however, was back in front 11 minutes into the second half.
Cech initially tipped over Riyad Mahrez’s shot but the latter turned provider from the resulting corner. The defense failed to check Vardy ghosting into the penalty area and the striker was unmarked as he nodded in the corner.
“We’re top of the league,” Leicester fans chanted for the first time since May 2016 when their club was in possession of a Premier League trophy that Arsenal has not lifted since 2004.
Leicester couldn’t stay on top, though. Schmeichel’s saves were keeping Leicester in front but he was beaten when Ramsey got on the end of Granit Xhaka’s cross and, again, when substitute Giroud headed in a corner.
“It was the first game of the season,” Cech said, “and it was a classic for everybody to watch.”
Just not the type of display that delivers titles.
WORLD SCORES: COURTESY OF LIVESCORE.COM
(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports) —- DETROIT — Erik Jones hasn’t spent too much time enjoying Michigan International Speedway. That’s because the Byron, Mich., native has been too busy driving.
Jones graduated from Swartz Creek High School in 2014, but he missed the ceremony to race in the Camping World Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway. The track had a special diploma presentation for Jones before the start of the race where the 18-year-old finished 11th.
Jones hopes to make up for his lost time at MIS and put together one last playoff push in the Pure Michigan 400 on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network).
“It’s funny, I didn’t go to MIS a ton when I was a kid,” Jones said in a conference call earlier this week. “I actually only went a few times because we were racing.
“It was always just my dad and I, so that’s always a fun memory for me to think about. Obviously, my dad was a race fan, and sharing that time with him down there was pretty fun.”
Jones’ dad, Dave, died June 7, 2016.
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Jones said his favorite MIS moment with his father was when he made his debut there in the Trucks race in 2015. He placed third behind Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney en route to winning the Truck Series championship later that year.
“My first truck race there was a cool day as well,” Jones said. “That was my first race ever at MIS, so I always kind of remember that day and hold it a little special. The first race at the home track is always kind of cool. I felt like I had to wait forever to get to run there with the age restrictions in NASCAR, but it was really cool to make my first run there.”
Jones finished 13th two months ago in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Michigan. The Cup rookie hopes he can build off that success this weekend, especially after a pair of setbacks.
A flat tire in July at New Hampshire Motor Speedway forced him to finish 39th, all but knocking him out of playoff contention. Two weeks ago, Jones’ Furniture Row Racing crew chief Chris Gayle was suspended for a rules violation involving the rear suspension of Jones’ Toyota at Pocono Raceway. Gayle was forced to sit out last week’s race at Watkins Glen International and will sit out Sunday’s run at MIS, too, while Jones was docked 25 driver points.
It’ll take quite the effort for Jones to make another playoff push.
Ranked 18th in the standings, Jones will most likely need a win in one of the four remaining regular-season races or have at least some of the winless drivers ranked ahead of him — Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano and Daniel Suarez — falter badly. Sixteen drivers will qualify for the postseason, and thirteen have earned playoff-clinching wins.
Now 21, Jones said there isn’t much pressure on his shoulders knowing the hill he has to climb to make the postseason.
“I feel there was more pressure when we were in the scenario to point our way in because we really had to be on our game every week and keep those points,” said Jones, who was the 2016 Xfinity Series rookie of the year. “After New Hampshire, when we had that flat tire and it ended our day, the pressure is kind of off. The only shot we have is to win a race, so, obviously, it’s a huge goal to make the playoffs.
“I know we are capable of it. We just got to go out and make it happen. It goes back to execution. We’ve had fast race cars in a multiple number of races. We just haven’t put the whole day together, whether it be we didn’t qualify well or had a bad stop late, or whatever else. It’s just going to take putting an entire weekend together. It’s starts on Friday and again on Sunday.”
Jones has had seven top-10 finishes, including a 10th-place effort last Sunday at Watkins Glen International, so it’s not impossible for him to make it happen. And if it doesn’t, he’s just excited to spend a week in his home state among family and friends.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “I actually came home to Michigan after Sunday’s race at Watkins Glen. I’ve spent the week up here, so it’s just cool to be racing at home.
“I stay at the house I grew up in when I come to race here, so it’s just neat to be here — a lot of friends, family come down to support me in that race. It’s really, for some, the only one they can make it to and drive here, so I’m looking forward to that. Hopefully, I have a good run for them.”
Folsom writes for the Detroit Free Press, part of the USA TODAY Network.
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WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (AP) — One by one they passed him as the laps dwindled at Watkins Glen International, and Martin Truex Jr. stuck to the plan. In the end, he was the one laughing in victory lane.
Truex held off a charging Matt Kenseth on the final lap and won the NASCAR Cup race on Sunday at The Glen, stretching his fuel to the triumphant end. It was the second road course victory of his career.
“I’ve wanted to win here for a long time. This is a big one for our team,” Truex said. “I never ran 100 percent because I didn’t have to. I ran hard enough (on the last lap) to just try to manage that gap.”
Truex gained the lead when Penske Racing’s Brad Keselowski in the No. 2 Ford and Ryan Blaney in the No. 21 Ford for the Wood Brothers were forced to pit in the final three laps.
“It’s excruciating to go that slow here and try to save that much fuel,” Truex said. “The toughest part, really, was just watching the No. 2 pass and go on, and then watching the No. 21 pass and go on. It’s like, ‘All right, if they don’t run out of gas, we’re going to look really dumb.’ Fortunately, it worked out for us.”
Trailing by 3 seconds after saving fuel for several laps, Truex assumed the lead in his No. 78 Toyota when Blaney ducked into the pits as the white flag was about to fly. Despite a bobble and locking the brakes as Kenseth challenged on the last lap, Truex won for the fourth time this season.
“He was so fast, I still couldn’t get to him,” said Kenseth, who maintained his slim points lead over Clint Bowyer for the final slot in the playoffs with four races to go before the cutoff. “I was racing as hard as I could, trying to make as many passes as I could.”
Daniel Suarez was third, the best finish of his rookie season, followed by Denny Hamlin and Bowyer. Pole-sitter Kyle Busch was seventh.
Truex boosted his playoff points total to a whopping 34, nearly double that of second-place Jimmie Johnson (18) as his best season shows no signs of tailing off.
“I feel like with the way we run, coupled with the bonus points, we should be a lock for (the season finale at) Homestead,” Truex said. “But at the same time, this is racing and anything can happen.”
Busch, who dominated qualifying earlier in the day, was the class of the field early and gained a big lead after the green flag dropped and led all 20 laps of the first stage. By the eighth time around the 2.45-mile circuit, Busch held a 3.4-second lead over Truex, while Keselowski in sixth was 10 seconds behind. It was Busch’s ninth stage win of the season.
Busch, who overcame a pit road penalty early in Saturday’s Xfinity race at The Glen and rallied to win, had to return to the pits after his first stop to check for a loose wheel and restarted 34th. By the end of the second stage, he had worked his way back through the field and was ninth at the end, in contention again.
Busch encountered more trouble just past the halfway point of the 90-lap race. His No. 18 Toyota suffered damage after a restart when he made contact with Keselowski in the Inner Loop while racing for seventh. Keselowski bounced into Busch and both slid off course.
An irate Busch pitted and Keselowski stayed out. Keselowski pitted a couple of laps later for tires, and when a caution flew he gained the lead for the restart after much of the field pitted.
Truex passed Bowyer for second on lap 61 and caught Keselowski three laps later, passing him on the final turn of lap 64. But with fuel mileage coming into play, Truex started to slow his pace, dropping back as Keselowski and Blaney drove past.
Other things of note at Watkins Glen:
The Mexican rookie won his first stage of the season and notched his fourth straight top-10 for Joe Gibbs Racing in the No. 19 Toyota, and racing up front the whole day on a tricky road course added another dose of confidence.
“I knew the second half of the year we’d be more competitive,” Suarez said. “All the hard work … is paying off. Now I feel like we’re moving in the right direction. I’m not surprised anymore to be running in the top 10. I just have to keep it up.”
In his final race at Watkins Glen, Dale Earnhardt Jr. had to drop out when he experienced valve train problems early in the second stage and parked his No. 88 Chevy in the garage.
“It’s been a little frustrating this weekend. This doesn’t make it much better,” said Earnhardt, who finished last. “But, I sure have enjoyed racing here and really appreciate the fans here, and the track and the staff. They’ve treated us so good every time we’ve been here, so it’s been a blessing.”
STAGE ONE: Pole-sitter Kyle Busch led every lap in the first 20-lap stage to pick up his ninth of stage win of the season and his 14 playoff point. Drivers are awarded one point per stage win to be used throughout the playoffs. The top 10 drivers in each stage are awarded race points in descending order from 10 through one.
Truex was second, followed by Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, Brad Keselowski, Jamie McMurray, Joey Logano, Allmendinger, Kasey Kahne and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Busch restarted the second stage 16th though after making an extra pit stop where it was discovered a lug nut had jammed between the brake caliper and left front wheel.
STAGE TWO: Suarez, a Joe Gibbs Racing rookie, won his first stage of the season, blocking hard-charging points leader Truex as the caution was issued on Lap 40. Kenseth was third, followed by Jones, Hamlin, Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch and Allmendinger. Suarez had previously collected just four stage points this season.
ROAD TO RUIN: Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s last race as a full-time Cup performer at Watkins Glen ended after 22 laps with a 37th-place finish. Down on power early in the race, he was forced to the garage with what the team described as a potential valve train problem. He’s finished 30th or worse in nine of 22 races this season.
“We changed this car inside and out twice this weekend,” Earnhardt said, noting he had realistically hoped for a top-20 finish. “It’s been a really difficult week. We’ve been way down on speed and we had a pretty good car at Sonoma, so I was kind of looking forward to coming here.
“I sure have enjoyed racing here and really appreciate the fans here; and the track and the staff. They’ve treated us so good every time we’ve been here, so it’s been a blessing.”
TOUGH START: Seven cars were sent to the rear to start the race because of unapproved adjustments. Among them were defending race-winner Hamlin and Bowyer. Hamlin entered qualified for the playoffs as a race-winner while Bowyer was outside the points transfer boundary.
PREGNANT PAUSE: Regan Smith was at the track to replace Hamlin if the Joe Gibbs Racing driver needed to leave to attend girlfriend Jordan Fish upon the birth of their second child.
I LOVE NEW YORK 355 AT THE GLEN
Sunday’s results from the 2.45-mile road course at Watkins Glen International (starting position in parentheses):
1. (3) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 90 laps, 58 points.
2. (15) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 943.
3. (5) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 90, 44.
4. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 90, 38.
5. (12) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 90, 32.
6. (18) Kurt Busch, Ford, 90, 34.
7. (1) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 90, 42.
8. (16) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 90, 36.
9. (7) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 90, 32.
10. (6) Erik Jones, Toyota, 90, 33.
11. (17) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 90, 26.
12. (14) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 90, 25.
13. (4) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 90, 32.
14. (9) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 90, 28.
15. (8) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 90, 32.
16. (19) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 90, 23.
17. (20) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 90, 20.
18. (21) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 90, 19.
19. (24) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 90, 18.
20. (22) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, 90, 18.
21. (29) Aric Almirola, Ford, 90, 16.
22. (25) Danica Patrick, Ford, 90, 15.
23. (2) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 90, 21.
24. (13) Joey Logano, Ford, 90, 17.
25. (23) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 90, 12.
26. (27) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 90, 11.
27. (31) David Ragan, Ford, 90, 10.
28. (37) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 90, 9.
29. (10) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 90, 8.
30. (35) Boris Said, Chevrolet, 89, 7.
31. (34) Gary Klutt, Chevrolet, 89, 6.
32. (33) Brett Moffitt, Toyota, 89, 0.
33. (36) Corey Lajoie, Toyota, 89, 4.
34. (26) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 81, 3.
35. (30) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 80, 2.
36. (32) Landon Cassill, Ford, 78, 1.
37. (28) Dale Earnhardt Jr, Chevrolet, engine, 22, 1.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 104.136 mph.
Time of Race: 2 hours, 7 minutes, 3 seconds.
Margin of Victory: 0.414 seconds.
Caution Flags: 3 for 8 laps.
Lead Changes: 9 among 6 drivers.
Lap Leaders: Ky.Busch 1-21; C.Elliott 22-30; D.Suarez 31-44; M.Truex 45-52; R.Blaney 53; B.Keselowski 54-63; M.Truex 64-76; B.Keselowski 77-86; R.Blaney 87; M.Truex 88-90
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): M.Truex, 3 times for 21 laps; Ky.Busch, 1 time for 20 laps; B.Keselowski, 2 times for 18 laps; D.Suarez, 1 time for 13 laps; C.Elliott, 1 time for 8 laps; R.Blaney, 2 times for 0 laps.
Wins: M.Truex, 4; J.Johnson, 3; B.Keselowski, 2; K.Larson, 2; R.Stenhouse, 2; R.Blaney, 1; Ku.Busch, 1; Ky.Busch, 1; A.Dillon, 1; D.Hamlin, 1; K.Harvick, 1; K.Kahne, 1; J.Logano, 1; R.Newman, 1.
Top 16 in Points: 1. M.Truex, 881; 2. Ky.Busch, 765; 3. K.Larson, 759; 4. K.Harvick, 746; 5. D.Hamlin, 687; 6. B.Keselowski, 681; 7. C.Elliott, 648; 8. J.McMurray, 643; 9. M.Kenseth, 637; 10. C.Bowyer, 609; 11. J.Johnson, 574; 12. R.Blaney, 565; 13. J.Logano, 542; 14. Ku.Busch, 528; 15. D.Suarez, 508; 16. R.Newman, 503.
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WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (AP) — If Kyle Busch seemed to take a bit longer to take his customary bow after a NASCAR victory, it was understandable. It’s nice to savor milestone victories.
Busch recovered from a spinout and a pit road penalty and survived a late restart to win the Zippo 200 on Saturday, his first triumph at Watkins Glen International in the Xfinity series. It also was the first Xfinity victory at Watkins Glen for Joe Gibbs Racing and the company’s 139th win overall in the series, breaking a tie with Roush Fenway for the top spot.
“It’s been a long time coming. We’ve been so close so many times,” Busch said. “I knew I just had to not screw it up.”
Busch topped the Penske Racing duo of Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski and easily beat them on a restart with three laps to go for his 90th series win. Watkins Glen International and Pocono were the only tracks currently on the Xfinity schedule where Busch had not won. He’s also won on every track in the Cup series except Charlotte.
Logano was second in his bid to win this race for the third straight time from the pole and Keselowski was third, followed by Justin Allgaier and Paul Menard.
Logano and Keselowski had dominated the previous two Xfinity races at Watkins Glen. In 2015, Logano led 39 laps, one fewer than his teammate, and they finished 1-2. A year ago Logano led 67 laps, including the final 27, for his second straight victory from the pole.
“Maybe one more restart and one of those green-white-checkered things would have been nice,” Logano said. “Overall, to start on the pole and be the runner-up doesn’t always feel good, but we did learn some things for tomorrow.”
Busch started second, quickly passed Logano for the lead and led the first 16 laps before wheel-hopping his No. 18 Toyota and spinning out on the first turn, a 90-degree right-hander that points downhill, on lap 17.
Keselowski won the opening 20-lap stage under caution and gained a big advantage over Busch, who drove through too many pit stalls (four) during his first pit stop and was penalized. He restarted near the back of the 40-car field.
“You’ve just got to get through it, but unfortunately I screwed up early and I got us behind,” Busch said. “But the guys gave me such an awesome race car that we could make it back up.”
Menard gained the lead on a restart in the second stage and held it for the remainder of the segment, holding off bids by Keselowski and Logano with Busch surging back into contention. He was eighth when the third caution flew on lap 34 for oil on the track from Stephen Young’s smoking No. 78 Chevy.
Menard proved stout as he held off the Penske duo but lost the lead in the final stage when he accidentally hit the master fuel switch and the car lost power going uphill. Keselowski took over the top spot, then dived into the pits with Logano on lap 49 for the final time in the 82-lap race around the 2.45-mile road course.
Logano’s crew had trouble with the right front tire and a long stop dropped him back several spots.
Busch pitted from the lead on lap 54 and rejoined the field about 10 car-lengths in front of Keselowski, but they were far in the rearview mirror of race leader Brendan Gaughan. The suspense ended when Gaughan pitted with just over 20 laps to go, giving Busch the lead again, this time for good.
Busch lapped points leader Elliott Sadler with seven laps to go and had built a 2.5-second lead when Casey Mears ran out of fuel to bring out the final caution. That set up a three-lap dash to the finish and Busch easily sped away from the Penske duo and won by just over a second.
It was his second NASCAR victory in a week — he won his first Cup race of the season last Sunday at Pocono — and energized him for Sunday afternoon’s 220-lap Cup race at The Glen.
“I don’t know if I’m just in the groove or what, but it feels pretty good,” Busch said.
ZIPPO 200 AT THE GLEN
Saturday from the 2.45-mile road course at Watkins Glen International (Starting position in parentheses):
1. (2) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 82.
2. (1) Joey Logano, Ford, 82.
3. (5) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 82.
4. (7) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 82.
5. (4) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 82.
6. (10) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 82.
7. (11) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 82.
8. (6) Erik Jones, Toyota, 82.
9. (16) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 82.
10. (15) William Byron, Chevrolet, 82.
11. (8) Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 82.
12. (9) Cole Custer, Ford, 82.
13. (19) Matt Tifft, Toyota, 82.
14. (18) Brandon Jones, Chevrolet, 82.
15. (12) Ryan Reed, Ford, 82.
16. (27) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 82.
17. (13) Brennan Poole, Chevrolet, 82.
18. (20) Elliott Sadler, Chevrolet, 81.
19. (29) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 81.
20. (23) Dylan Lupton, Toyota, 81.
21. (26) Dakoda Armstrong, Toyota, 81.
22. (14) Blake Koch, Chevrolet, 81.
23. (36) Harrison Rhodes, Chevrolet, 81.
24. (33) Garrett Smithley, Chevrolet, 81.
25. (17) Casey Mears, Ford, 80.
26. (38) Devin Jones, Chevrolet, 80.
27. (24) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 80.
28. (28) Josh Bilicki, Chevrolet, 79.
29. (40) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 79.
30. (37) David Starr, Chevrolet, 79.
31. (35) Enrique Baca, Toyota, 78.
32. (22) Spencer Gallagher, Chevrolet, 67.
33. (34) Brian Henderson, Chevrolet, Ignition, 59.
34. (32) Cody Ware, Dodge, Clutch, 52.
35. (21) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, Axle, 36.
36. (39) Stephen Young, Chevrolet, Transmission, 33.
37. (30) Timmy Hill, Dodge, Overheating, 27.
38. (31) Jeff Green, Chevrolet, Vibration, 26.
39. (25) JJ Yeley, Toyota, Engine, 16.
40. (3) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, Engine, 12.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 92.569 mph.
Time of Race: 2:10:13.
Margin of Victory: 1.049 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 5 for 15 laps.
Lead Changes: 8 among 5 drivers.
Lap Leaders: K. Busch 1-16; B. Keselowski 17-20; D. Hemric 21-24; P. Menard 25-46; B. Keselowski 47-48; K. Busch 49-53; B. Gaughan 54-60; K. Busch 61-82.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): K. Busch 3 times for 43 laps; P. Menard 1 time for 22 laps; B. Gaughan 1 time for 7 laps; B. Keselowski 2 times for 6 laps; D. Hemric 1 time for 4 laps.
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (AP) — Three years ago AJ Allmendinger didn’t want the second Sunday in August to end, so he lingered in victory lane at Watkins Glen International to soak in the atmosphere with his crew.
The victory on the road course stamped Allmendinger as a threat to win every time NASCAR’s Cup series visits the two twisting layouts on the schedule. With the playoffs looming, he’s 27th in points and needs a victory to qualify for the postseason as the series stops at The Glen, his best shot left to produce that needed result.
If there’s any added pressure, he says he doesn’t feel it.
“No pressure, man. Honestly,” said Allmendinger, who drives the No. 47 Chevrolet for JTG Daugherty Racing. “I think the outside world tries to put pressure on it. All we can do is go out there and give it our best effort.
“The racetrack will always be special, obviously, being my first win, reliving those memories,” said Allmendinger, an expert road racer from his days in open-wheel racing. “But when it comes to pressure, it’s in every week. We’ll see how it plays out.”
That victory in 2014 came in Allmendinger’s 213rd Cup start, and he did it by winning a two-lap duel at the end with Marcos Ambrose, who had emerged as the driver to beat at Watkins Glen. Ambrose had been dominant in NASCAR’s top two series at The Glen, winning two straight Cup races and four straight events in the second-tier series.
The previous year Allmendinger also won on the road courses at Elkhart Lake and Mid-Ohio in NASCAR’s second-tier series, but success at the top level has been elusive. He finished fourth at Watkins Glen a year ago and never challenged winner Denny Hamlin . He qualified fifth but finished 35th at Sonoma in June and enters Sunday’s race at The Glen riding a 107-race winless streak.
“This year, we’ve been a little off on speed kind of everywhere we’ve been to,” said Allmendinger, who has one top-five finish and four top-10s in 21 starts this year. “We’re working hard to try to get better as a race team. We’ll see when we get there on Saturday what kind of speed we have in practice.
“It’s one of those things, you don’t really know until you get to the racetrack and you get to practice and qualifying where you stand on speed.”
Sunday’s I Love New York 355 at The Glen is the second straight Cup race with a condensed schedule. Teams won’t practice until Saturday and qualifying is Sunday at 12:05 p.m., three hours before the race.
“With the condensed practices, to unload well (is key),” Allmendinger said. “You don’t have that time to really work on your car. Each practice is 55 minutes long, and if you don’t unload very well, it’s one of those things that you kind of get behind real quick. The last couple of weeks we haven’t unloaded great and then it’s hard to try and catch up because the time just goes quick.”
Xfinity practice on Friday gave a handful of Cup regulars a chance for extra time on WGI’s 2.45-mile layout as they prepare to race in Saturday’s Zippo 200 with an eye toward Sunday. Brad Keselowski topped the speed charts in the first practice, followed by Kyle Busch and Joey Logano. Kyle Larson was fifth fastest, two spots ahead of Kevin Harvick.
As for that pressure on Sunday, NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace figures it’ll be ramped-up for Allmendinger.
“There’s so much a feel of, ‘I’ve got to get it done, I’ve got to win this thing,'” said Wallace, a two-time winner at The Glen who will work the race as an analyst for the Motor Racing Network. “AJ Allmendinger, he’s coming up here thinking, ‘Man, you know what, I can run good everywhere else, but I can win here and I’ve got to get it done here. I’ve got to win this race because it’s the only shot I’ve got to win all year long.'”
More AP auto racing: http://racing.ap.org
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — NASCAR has suspended the crew chief for Cup driver Erik Jones for a rules violation at Pocono Raceway.
The No. 77 Furniture Row Racing team was penalized because of a rear suspension violation. Crew chief Chris Gayle was fined $50,000 and suspended for two Cup races. The team also lost 25 owner points and 25 driver points.
FRR will not appeal and named James Small interim crew chief.
Jones finished eighth at Pocono. He is now 150 points behind the cutoff spot for NASCAR’s playoffs heading into Saturday’s race at Watkins Glen.
NASCAR also issued $10,000 fines to the crew chiefs for Pocono winner Kyle Busch, Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for lug nut violations.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — NASCAR has standardized the location of the overtime line, starting with this weekend’s races at Watkins Glen.
NASCAR says the start/finish line will serve as the OT marker “at most tracks for the remainder of the 2017 season.”
The overtime line is the line drivers must reach under green flag conditions following a restart for the race to become official.
The line had usually been marked on the backstretch.
Drivers must complete a full lap when a race goes into overtime for it to be considered complete. If the race leader does not reach the start/finish line under green, that race will have another restart.
DARLINGTON, S.C. (AP) — Martin Truex Jr. believes being far away from NASCAR’s hub has helped him during the most successful stretch of his career, a run he hopes ends with a championship this season.
Truex, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points leader, also is tied for the series lead with three victories. Already locked into the playoffs for a third straight season, Truex believes he’s better prepared to end the year with NASCAR’s trophy.
“It just seems like consistency has gotten better as we go down this road together as a team,” Truex said Tuesday. “Last year was a good and this year so far seems even better so hopefully we can continue that upward trend.”
A big reason, at least in Truex’s mind, is his Furniture Row Racing team’s headquarters in Denver, two time zones from the NASCAR center outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. The location gives the team an all-in-the-same-boat feeling that has made them bond into a winning group.
“I think it’s a great team, a great situation,” Truex said. “Being in Denver, all by ourselves out there, my crew chiefs, my engineers, we’re just like a family and we get better and better as we work together.”
That’s certainly apparent this season.
Along with his three victories, Truex has had eight top fives and 14 top 10s in 21 races this season. He’s lead the most laps of any driver (1,291) and has been out front in 16 of 21 events so far this year.
“You don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring, you don’t know what next weekend is going to bring, so we’re enjoying while we have success,” he said. “We’re working hard to stay where we’re at.”
The next step is running for a title.
Truex made the final four two years ago, yet finished 12th at Homestead to fall to fourth in the points race. In 2016, Truex came in as a playoff powerhouse with crown jewel victories in the Coca Cola 600 in Charlotte and Southern 500 in Darlington . He then won two of the first three chase races to move out front. But problems in the round of 12 ended Truex’s run as he finished 11th overall.
This time around, Truex isn’t looking ahead. He thinks a focus on the week-to-week racing will keep himself and his crew sharp so when the playoffs come, they’ll be ready.
“The last two years we had some good success in the playoffs and we did that by not changing our strategy,” Truex said. “Obviously, we haven’t got a championship yet so we’ve got some work to do on it. But I feel good about this year and we’ll see how it ends up.”
Truex was outside of the track “Too Tough To Tame,” at Ramsey’s Pond to do a little down-time fishing. Truex, sponsored by Bass Pro Shops, sat in a boat alongside Darlington President Kerry Tharp and Bass Fishing Hall of Famer Guy Eaker. He made a few casts in the pond that local lore says led to Darlington’s misshapen, egg-like layout because the Ramsey family did not want track creator Harold Brasington to get rid of the pond.
“The word environmentalist wasn’t created back then,” said Jim Ramsey, whose grandfather was credited with saving the pond. “But I would say he thought about it years ago. He wanted to save that little pond.”
Truex fished some with the South Florida High fishing team that has won state and national angling titles on the prep level.
“Wished we could’ve caught some,” Truex joked after coming up empty.
A bigger concern for Truex is staying on track with five races left in the regular season, including the Southern 500 at Darlington on Sept. 3.
“Can’t wait for 30-some days to come back here and try again,” Truex said.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — NASCAR has tightened the restrictions for 2018 on Cup drivers who want to drive in lower-tier race series.
Drivers with more than five years of full-time experience who race for points in the Cup series will be limited to a maximum of seven Xfinity Series races and five races in the Truck Series.
The Cup drivers will be ineligible to compete in the regular-season finale and playoff races in each series, as well as the Dash 4 Cash races in the Xfinity Series.
It’s a change from the rules put in place for this season that limited Cup drivers with five years of full-time experience to 10 Xfinity races and seven Truck races.
More AP auto racing: http://racing.ap.org
(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports) —- For the third weekend in a row, one of the first words emanating from the mouth of the winning driver was “Finally.”
Sunday at Pocono Raceway, Kyle Busch broke a 36-race winless streak in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. His victory came on the heels of Kasey Kahne’s drought-busting win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway that snapped a 102-race winless streak and Denny Hamlin’s victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway that ended a 28-race drought.
For Busch, the dry spell was all the more flummoxing, considering how many laps he’s led and how many races he could have won in 2017. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver is one of two — along with Martin Truex Jr. — who has led more than 1,000 laps. He was ranked fourth in points entering Sunday’s race ahead of drivers with not just one win, but in some cases two or more.
And yet, the 2015 series champion had not been able to “get the monkey off our back.” Busch said it was “frustrating and aggravating and disheartening” to have run so well and have nothing to show for it.
“We’ve had fast race cars. It’s not like we’ve been running 10th to 15th every week and don’t deserve to win anyways. I think the fact of it was we were running up front, we should be able to capitalize on those good fast race cars and get to victory lane.”
Now, Busch says the team can “breathe a little bit easier” and focus on winning more races and getting ready for the playoffs. The series next heads to the road course at Watkins Glen International, and Busch should be a heavy favorite. He is the only active driver with more than one win at the New York track. He has 10 top-10 finishes in 12 starts — most among active drivers — and his average finish of 10.1 trails only AJ Allmendinger’s 9.4 — sobering numbers for the rest of the field.
Here are four other takeaways as the series moves from the Pocono Mountains to the Finger Lakes region of New York:
SUMMER SWOON: Jimmie Johnson crashed at Pocono for the second time in 2017 and now has crashed in three of the five July races this season. Fans of the 48 team, however, have no reason to panic. Johnson is safely locked into the playoffs with three wins (tied for the series high), and has struggled in this stretch of the season before.
Last year, Johnson crashed in four of nine races between June 6 and Aug. 7 before righting the ship and going on to win his record-tying seventh championship.
In 2014, Johnson crashed in three of four races in a midsummer stretch but ended the regular season with four consecutive top-10 finishes.
WATKINS GLEN WILD CARD: The last road-course race of the season may be the best remaining chance for an underdog driver to snare a win. That is especially true for Allmendinger, who won at The Glen in 2014 and finished fourth last year.
The JTG-Daugherty Racing driver is ranked 27th in the standings and has tallied only one top-five all year — at the season-opening Daytona 500 — but is considered a road-course master. He struggled mightily in the season’s only other road-course race, at Sonoma Raceway — finishing 35th after starting fifth — but The Glen is his best track and his best chance to grab a playoff spot in the remaining five races.
PLAYOFF SQUEEZE: Busch became the 13th driver to qualify for the playoffs via a win, which leaves only three spots open to the remaining winless drivers.
Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott (616 points), Chip Ganassi Racing’s Jamie McMurray (615) and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Matt Kenseth (594), would qualify on points if the playoffs started today, but after his sixth-place showing at Pocono, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Clint Bowyer — with 577 points and just outside the final transfer spot — is hot on their heels.
It seems unlikely that any other winless driver will be able to snare a playoff berth via points after the regular-season finale at Richmond Raceway on Sept. 9. That means drivers like Team Penske’s Joey Logano (525 points), Furniture Row Racing’s Erik Jones (469), JGR’s Daniel Suarez (464) and Hendrick’s Dale Earnhardt Jr. (378) have reached must-win territory.
POINTS MATTER: Winless drivers are not the only ones thinking about the playoffs. Both Johnson and Busch’s crew chief Adam Stevens spoke about the importance of playoff points — a new wrinkle in the system this year — that drivers have been accumulating through race victories and stage wins. Truex leads all drivers with 29 playoffs points, 13 more than Johnson, who ranks second in the category.
Johnson lamented the lost opportunity for playoff points at Pocono: “I don’t think any of us truly understand how important they are. I think we all recognize that they are going to be important. So, we will know so much more at the end of the year.”
Stevens said playoff points were a huge concern for the No. 18 team: “You only get ‘em one at a time when you win the stage. We’ve won the second most stages (eight). But (Truex) has won a bunch (14). … You get in these short three-race segments (during the playoffs), those playoff points are going to be colossal. The sooner we can start racking them up, the better.”
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LONG POND, Pa. (AP) — Kyle Busch watched the number of laps he’s led this season tick, tick, tick as it crossed 1,000, and he only really cared about the lap he hadn’t led: the last one.
“We’ve had speed. We’ve been right there,” Busch said. “We’ve been able to do what we should be doing and that’s running up front.”
For all that time up front, Busch also had the longest losing streak of his career, a rare recession over his time building a resume even NASCAR Hall of Famers would envy, with the 2015 Cup championship, 176 wins over three series and an elite ride for Joe Gibbs Racing.
He can add two more feats to the list — 13 straight years with a Cup win and his first checkered flag at Pocono.
Busch used a bump-and-run on Kevin Harvick to take the lead with 16 laps left and held on to snap a 36-race losing streak and win the NASCAR Cup race at Pocono Raceway on Sunday.
“I never thought this day would happen,” Busch said.
Busch won from the pole and gave Toyota its 100th Cup win since its 2007 debut. Busch had Toyota’s first Cup win in March 2008 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Busch had never gone a full season without winning a race. Charlotte Motor Speedway is now the only track where he’s failed to win a Cup points race.
“I wasn’t sure which one was going to be last,” he said.
Busch had seven top-five finishes this season and was runner-up to Austin Dillon in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte. All the near misses have gnawed at Busch, who won the All-Star race — at Charlotte. But the exhibition race doesn’t count in the season standings and Busch was in a victory slump that dated to the 2016 Brickyard 400.
He was racing for the lead last weekend in the Brickyard 400 when he wrecked with Martin Truex Jr., which led to a pit road altercation between members of both teams.
He also won his 176th career NASCAR race over the Cup (39), Xfinity (89) and Truck (48) series.
“We’ve all been fighting all year long and just wasn’t sure why,” Busch said. “This is something I’ve been waiting for for a long, long time. It’s been a frustrating year but an awesome day today.”
Harvick finished second, followed by Truex, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski. Harvick, who hasn’t won in 34 career races at Pocono, said he had nothing for Busch down the stretch.
“There was no battle. He was way faster than we were,” Harvick said.
Crew chief Adam Stevens made the right calls a week after his confrontation on pit road with members of Truex’s team. JGR suspended two of Truex’s tire changers because of the profane outburst at the Brickyard. JGR provides the pit crew for Furniture Row Racing as part of a technical alliance, giving them the authority to suspend members of the FRR team.
Busch earned a spot in NASCAR’s playoffs, a significant victory that left just three open spots with five races left before the 16-driver field is set. JGR had been winless overall until Hamlin won two weeks ago at New Hampshire.
“I didn’t fear we wouldn’t make the Chase with our points position,” Stevens said.
Samantha Busch was stressed about her husband’s season, tweeting before the race , “160 laps. We haven’t even started and I’m a ball of nerves. Please let this be the day for the 18!”
It was. She was in tears over the final laps and celebrated in victory lane a win that her husband dedicated to his late grandmother.
Up next, a run at a second championship.
“I think our stats and our runs and our speed shows for itself,” Busch said.
Other items of note at Pocono:
NASCAR found a loose lug nut on the 18 and Stevens could be fined $10,000. He does not face a suspension.
THE BIG ONE
An eight-car wreck on the first lap knocked Aric Almirola and Matt DiBenedetto out of the race. Matt Kenseth got loose and spun to trigger the accident.
Almirola missed two months of the season with a fractured vertebra suffered in a race at Kansas.
“Sort of a bummer not to even make a whole lap,” he said.
Jimmie Johnson wrecked and did not finish for the third time in the last four races. Johnson connected with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne and was spun into the wall.
The seven-time Cup champion also crashed out of the first Pocono race in June.
NASCAR held qualifying before the race instead of earlier in the weekend. Pocono had no Cup cars on the track Friday during the condensed schedule. NASCAR will try the two-day show again next week at Watkins Glen and Oct. 29 at Martinsville.
“Just thankful for the opportunity to have the two-day shows,” Busch said. “We love spending time with our families, and being on the road, that is sometimes difficult.”
The series shifts to the road course at Watkins Glen. Hamlin is the defending race winner.
OVERTON’S 400 RESULTS
Sunday from the 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway (starting position in parentheses):
1. (1) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 160 laps, 50 points.
2. (6) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 160, 43.
3. (2) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 160, 43.
4. (4) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 160, 37.
5. (11) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 160, 48.
6. (7) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 160, 44.
7. (8) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 160, 30.
8. (9) Erik Jones, Toyota, 160, 29.
9. (15) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 160, 28.
10. (13) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 160, 28.
11. (12) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 160, 31.
12. (23) Dale Earnhardt Jr, Chevrolet, 160, 25.
13. (18) Kurt Busch, Ford, 160, 31.
14. (20) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 160, 29.
15. (22) Danica Patrick, Ford, 160, 30.
16. (21) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, 160, 25.
17. (30) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 159, 20.
18. (17) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 159, 21.
19. (27) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 159, 18.
20. (19) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 159, 20.
21. (26) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 159, 16.
22. (33) David Ragan, Ford, 159, 15.
23. (28) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 159, 15.
24. (32) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 159, 13.
25. (34) Corey Lajoie, Toyota, 159, 12.
26. (3) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 159, 16.
27. (10) Joey Logano, Ford, 159, 10.
28. (24) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 159, 9.
29. (31) Landon Cassill, Ford, 158, 8.
30. (5) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 158, 13.
31. (35) Gray Gaulding, Chevrolet, 157, 6.
32. (36) Stephen Leicht, Toyota, 153, 5.
33. (16) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 148, 6.
34. (37) Derrike Cope, Chevrolet, transmission, 85, 3.
35. (14) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, accident, 57, 2.
36. (38) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, engine, 24, 1.
37. (29) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, accident, 1, 1.
38. (25) Aric Almirola, Ford, accident, 0, 1.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 141.087 mph.
Time of Race: 2 hours, 50 minutes, 7 seconds.
Margin of Victory: 6.178 seconds.
Caution Flags: 5 for 21 laps.
Lead Changes: 16 among 9 drivers.
Lap Leaders: Ky.Busch 1-21; E.Jones 22-24; R.Stenhouse 25-35; M.Kenseth 36-41; Ky.Busch 42-52; M.Kenseth 53-55; Ky.Busch 56-71; A.Dillon 72-73; D.Hamlin 74-89; M.Truex 90-96; C.Bowyer 97-101; M.Truex 102-125; Ky.Busch 126-134; B.Keselowski 135-140; E.Jones 141; D.Hamlin 142-143; Ky.Busch 144-160
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): Ky.Busch, 5 times for 69 laps; M.Truex, 2 times for 29 laps; D.Hamlin, 2 times for 16 laps; R.Stenhouse, 1 time for 10 laps; M.Kenseth, 2 times for 7 laps; B.Keselowski, 1 time for 5 laps; C.Bowyer, 1 time for 4 laps; E.Jones, 2 times for 2 laps; A.Dillon, 1 time for 1 lap.
Wins: J.Johnson, 3; M.Truex, 3; B.Keselowski, 2; K.Larson, 2; R.Stenhouse, 2; R.Blaney, 1; Ku.Busch, 1; Ky.Busch, 1; A.Dillon, 1; D.Hamlin, 1; K.Harvick, 1; K.Kahne, 1; J.Logano, 1; R.Newman, 1.
Top 16 in Points: 1. M.Truex, 823; 2. K.Larson, 738; 3. K.Harvick, 726; 4. Ky.Busch, 723; 5. D.Hamlin, 649; 6. B.Keselowski, 649; 7. C.Elliott, 616; 8. J.McMurray, 615; 9. M.Kenseth, 594; 10. C.Bowyer, 577; 11. J.Johnson, 566; 12. R.Blaney, 529; 13. J.Logano, 525; 14. Ku.Busch, 494; 15. R.Newman, 491; 16. E.Jones, 469.
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NEWTON, Iowa (AP) — Ryan Preece had waited his whole career for a chance to race in a car as strong as the No. 20 Toyota of Joe Gibbs Racing.
Preece then went out and proved what he could do with top-notch equipment.
The 26-year-old Preece survived a green-white-checkered finish to win the NASCAR Xfinity race Saturday at Iowa Speedway for his first career victory.
Preece, running the second of a two-race deal with the powerhouse JGR team, started from the pole and held off Kyle Benjamin on three restarts in the final 17 laps.
Preece, the Connecticut driver who is a regular in the lower-division NASCAR Whelen Modified series, crossed the start-finish line less than a car-length ahead of Benjamin.
“To be honest with you, I believed in myself enough to do it,” Preece said of using his Xfinity budget for just two races. “It is very risky. I had multiple people in the business tell me that it was a little (riskier) than they would do.”
The 19-year-old Benjamin was a career-best second, followed by Brian Scott, Brennan Poole and rookie Cole Custer.
William Byron, who began a streak of three wins in five races at Iowa last month, finished ninth and Justin Allgaier was 20th after leading 106 laps.
Preece finished 17th in the series a year ago, with only one top-10 in 33 starts.
For this season, Preece went back to the Modified series — where he won a title four years ago — while striking a deal with JGR to run twice in one of the best cars in the series.
Preece was second to Cup star Kyle Busch in New Hampshire in his first shot with the No. 20 car.
On Saturday, he held off Benjamin to make his season-long gamble pay off.
“I knew what I felt like I had to do to get attention, to make noise, and I felt like these two races were my shot,” Preece said.
It was an encouraging finish for Benjamin, who started on the front row for the fourth time in as many races but finished above 16th for the first time.
“I’m really happy to finish second — I really needed that,” Benjamin said. “But to be as close as we were to winning, it kind of hurts. It makes you think about what you could have done better.
It was another gamble, by Allgaier earlier in the race, which helped put Preece and Benjamin in position for their thrilling finish.
Allgaier won the second stage and was leading when he decided to stay out on a caution about 75 laps from the finish.
The rest of the contenders went in for fresh tires and Allgaier’s No. 7 car, on old tires, quickly fell back while Preece grabbed the lead.
The hope for Allgaier was that a caution would allow him to put on a new set of tires, and thus have the advantage for the finish.
The yellow flag came too late though, as Allgaier was forced to pit for fuel just a few laps before Sam Hornish Jr. drew a caution.
Preece, who spent much of the race battling Allgaier for first, led 141 laps.
FULL RESULTS (start position in parentheses):
1. (1) Ryan Preece, Toyota, 254.
2. (2) Kyle Benjamin, Toyota, 254.
3. (11) Brian Scott, Chevrolet, 254.
4. (8) Brennan Poole, Chevrolet, 254.
5. (5) Cole Custer, Ford, 254.
6. (28) JJ Yeley, Toyota, 254.
7. (3) Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 254.
8. (7) Blake Koch, Chevrolet, 254.
9. (17) William Byron, Chevrolet, 254.
10. (19) Brandon Jones, Chevrolet, 254.
11. (21) Brett Moffitt, Chevrolet, 254.
12. (6) Elliott Sadler, Chevrolet, 254.
13. (16) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 254.
14. (25) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 254.
15. (26) Harrison Rhodes, Chevrolet, 254.
16. (9) Ty Majeski, Ford, 254.
17. (20) Dakoda Armstrong, Toyota, 254.
18. (22) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 254.
19. (10) Matt Tifft, Toyota, 253.
20. (14) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 252.
21. (18) Ryan Reed, Ford, 252.
22. (31) BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, 252.
23. (13) Ben Kennedy, Chevrolet, 251.
24. (30) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 249.
25. (32) Dylan Lupton, Toyota, 249.
26. (36) David Starr, Chevrolet, 249.
27. (35) Tommy Joe Martins, Chevrolet, 249.
28. (27) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 249.
29. (38) Brandon Brown, Chevrolet, 248.
30. (37) Ray Black II, Chevrolet, 247.
31. (40) Mike Harmon, Dodge, 243.
32. (39) Stan Mullis, Chevrolet, 241.
33. (23) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 233.
34. (4) Sam Hornish Jr., Ford, Accident, 229.
35. (34) Garrett Smithley, Chevrolet, Accident, 218.
36. (15) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 218.
37. (12) Spencer Gallagher, Chevrolet, Accident, 170.
38. (33) Morgan Shepherd, Chevrolet, Handling, 46.
39. (29) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, Transmission, 9.
40. (24) Jeff Green, Chevrolet, Vibration, 3.
Average speed of winner: 96.9 mph.
Time of Race: 2 hours, 17 minutes, 37 seconds.
Margin of victory: 0.054 seconds.
Caution flags: 7 for 40 laps.
Lead changes: 4 among 4 drivers.
Lap leaders: R.Preece 1-63; K.Benjamin 64-68; E.Sadler 69-70; J.Allgaier 71-176; R.Preece 177-254.
Leaders summary (driver, times lead, laps led): R. Preece 2 times for 141 laps; J. Allgaier 1 time for 106 laps; K. Benjamin 1 time for 5 laps; E. Sadler 1 time for 2 laps.
(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports) —- Joe Gibbs Racing on Wednesday suspended two crewmen from Martin Truex Jr.’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series team who were involved in an incident with Kyle Busch crew chief Adam Stevens.
Rear tire changer Lee Cunningham and front tire changer Chris Taylor were each sanctioned for three races, JGR spokesman Chris Helein confirmed to USA TODAY Sports. The incident stemmed from a crash with 50 laps left in the Brickyard 400 on Sunday in which points leader Truex made contact with race-leader Busch on a restart, wrecking both. Busch had led 87 laps hunting a first victory of the season.
Fox Sports 1 replays showed Cunningham clapping and shouting “Tell Kyle ‘way to go’,” as Stevens walked past Truex’s Furniture Row Racing pit box afterward. Stevens approached and began an aggressive verbal exchange before Taylor entered and pushed the crew chief away, saying, “I don’t care who you are. I don’t give a [expletive] who you are. Get out of my box.”
This situation was more complicated than the usual racing disagreement in that FRR is an affiliate of JGR and leases pit crews from its fellow Toyota team.
FRR owner Barney Visser said in a release: “Our No. 78 pit crew is hired, trained and managed by Joe Gibbs Racing. They are one of the best pit crews on the circuit and have kept us up front all season. … We admire the talent and dedication of our pit crew and support all of the decisions and actions taken by Joe Gibbs Racing.”
Kip Wolfmeier and John Royer will replace the suspended crewmen.
William Byron is cognizant of the speculation. He seems appreciative of the energy being generated on his behalf from beyond the perimeter of Hendrick Motorsports. And the occasional calls he receives from owner Rick Hendrick encourage the 19-year-old Xfinity Series driver about his future.
As the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Pocono Raceway (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network), Byron returns to Iowa Speedway (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, NBC) after winning the first Xfinity race of the season there.
He knows he won’t be elevated to Cup next season as a replacement for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 Chevrolet. In-house product Alex Bowman was officially awarded that promotion last week. So Byron can focus on what has enabled a stretch where he has won three times in the past five races.
But all that success keeps outside chatter a daily part of his existence, because although Kasey Kahne won the Brickyard 400 last Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway — breaking a 102-race winless streak — Hendrick was vague on the future of the No. 5 Chevrolet or Kahne as its pilot for 2018.
Having heard nothing about his possible relevance to that matter, Byron told USA Today Sports, he will continue to concentrate on an Iowa sweep. But if Hendrick or anyone else is asking, he said, he’s ready for the next step.
“I think I’m ready for anything,” Byron told USA TODAY Sports in a phone interview. “I’ve raced against the Cup guys the last few weeks and shown that I can beat them. That’s what it takes. You have to do that to get the opportunity. But right now, I’m focused on this year.”
Byron said he was pleased to learn of Bowman’s new deal, particularly because the 24-year-old’s promotion represented an opportunity for a young driver. They are friends and chat amid their simulator work at the shop in Concord, N.C.
Byron said handling speculation about his possible ascent has “not been too bad,” and he projects confidence that his time is coming. As was the case with Bowman, Hendrick would have to consider driver readiness and sponsor reaction to promoting Byron, who has 42 starts combined in Xfinity and the Camping World Truck Series and won the 2015 K&N Pro Series East championship.
Kahne’s program faces sponsor shortfalls for next season with Farmers Insurance and Great Clips departing.
“I’m just focused on what we’re doing and trying to do the best job I can,” Byron said. “I know that opportunity will come sooner rather than later. I know down the road I want to be with Hendrick Motorsports and they’ve been supporting me a lot … I know I’m ready for anything, so I’m excited.”
Hendrick signed Byron — at the time in the process of setting a rookie record with seven wins for Kyle Busch’s truck series team — to a developmental deal in August of 2016 and assigned him to affiliate JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series for this season. After finishing second at Michigan by .012 seconds — to a car driven by Cup regular Denny Hamlin that failed post-race inspection — Byron won consecutively at Iowa and Daytona International Speedway, and held off Cup veteran Paul Menard by .108 at Indianapolis last week.
He’s currently second in points, 40 behind JR Motorsports teammate and mentor Elliott Sadler, and hoping for more calls from Hendrick, for multiple reasons. Hendrick has deflected questions on Byron’s future with a wry grin and a proclamation of his pupil’s “great job.”
“Right now, I’m just kind of focused on this year,” Byron said. “Right now, honestly I don’t know anything … I know that I’m racing this car this year and trying to do the best job I can this year.
“It’s very cool to have the relationship I do with Mr. Hendrick and for him to take a chance on me this year after racing in the truck series and moving me up to this team and everything like that. It’s been great to hear his reaction, to hear him on the phone when we’ve won races and hopefully that continues this year and I can get a few more phone calls from him.”
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(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports) —- Team owner Roger Penske’s wishes to bring prospect Ryan Blaney back within the organization for 2018 came to fruition Wednesday, as Team Penske announced that the 23-year-old will leave the Wood Brothers for a No. 12 Ford.
Veteran Paul Menard was announced as Blaney’s replacement in the No. 21 Ford after leaving Richard Childress Racing in another move. Blaney, who ostensibly has qualified for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series playoffs after winning his first race in the series at Pocono Raceway, has been under contract with Penske since 2012 but is racing his second full season in a work-study program at the Wood Brothers.
“This is a huge opportunity for me and my career,” Blaney said in a release. “I’ve always enjoyed racing whatever car I was in and trying to win each and every race. I’ve had some great moments with both Team Penske and the Wood Brothers over the last few years.
“I know for a fact I wouldn’t be where I am today without Roger (Penske), Eddie and Len (Wood) and the opportunities their organizations have given me. I’m thrilled knowing that Brad (Keselowski) and Joey (Logano) are long-term teammates for me at Team Penske and Paul (Menard) will have input with our team now that he’s with the Wood Brothers organization. Hopefully we can go out there and win races and compete for championships year after year.”
The announcements capped a busy week for Ford Performance and Penske. The team announced Tuesday that 2012 series champion Keselowski had signed an extension to remain with the team. Logano inked an extension earlier this year that the team describes as through “2022 and beyond.” Blaney, the team said, has signed a multi-year extension.
“We have been working on making this a reality and 2018 is the right opportunity to make this move and return our organization to a three-car team,” Penske said in a release. “The benefits of having three full-time teams under our roof, along with the continued technical partnership with the Wood Bothers, will help us remain competitive in the ever-changing NASCAR landscape.”
Neither sponsorship nor crew chief were announced for Blaney.
As has been the case throughout his 14 years at NASCAR’s top level, Menard will bring the might of his billionaire father’s massive home improvement empire to the Wood Brothers. The company will sponsor 22 races, according to a team release. The 36-year-old has one career win – in the 2011 Brickyard 400 – and has a career-best points finish of 14th in 2015.
It has been widely speculated that RCR will downsize from three to two cars next season. In a release Tuesday, team owner Richard Childress said the team “will be announcing our plans for a third Cup team and our overall 2018 team lineup at a later date.”
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(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports) —- After finally getting his first taste of victory in nearly three years, Kasey Kahne used words like confidence and momentum to describe how important the breakthrough was Sunday.
Kahne used a flawless overtime restart at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to outduel Brad Keselowski and conquer a race of attrition that had relegated many cars to the scrap heap.
The Hendrick Motorsports driver had not won a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race since Aug. 31, 2014, at Atlanta Motor Speedway, so Kahne’s Brickyard 400 victory was fused with a combination of elation and sweet relief.
“Oh, man, it’s been a while since I’ve won,” Kahne said in his post-race news conference after receiving IV fluids to combat dehydration and cramping. “I mean, you have to wonder — like, as a driver all I want to do is win, all I want to do is perform. I put the effort in each week, whether it’s at the shop, whether it’s physically, mentally, at the race shop trying to prepare, watching videos, looking through old notes, how can we be better.
“My team works really hard, as well. But we haven’t had the performance. We haven’t ran up front. We don’t lead a lot of laps. … Yeah, those things have to cross your mind. If they don’t, something would be wrong, I think.
“I think a win like today can give myself confidence and momentum, our whole team a boost, which is something that we need.”
Kahne now has a chance to build on that momentum, and his next race may be ideally suited to that cause. The series will hit Pocono Raceway this weekend, which, as team owner Rick Hendrick noted, is a good track for Kahne, crew chief Keith Rodden and the No. 5 team.
Kahne has two career Cup wins at The Tricky Triangle — one of only three tracks (the others being Atlanta and Charlotte) where he has multiple victories. While his most recent race at Pocono resulted in a crash and a 35th-place finish, his successful foray around Indianapolis Motor Speedway could prove invaluable.
Pocono, like IMS, is a 2.5-mile superspeedway that is relatively flat — at least in two of its three distinct corners. Perhaps more significantly, Turn 2, which has 8 degrees of banking, was modeled after the turns at Indianapolis, which should be fresh in the mind of a resurgent Kahne.
Here are three other takeaways as the series moves from the Midwest to the mountains of the northeast:
BUSCH’S BAD LUCK: Kyle Busch won two of three stages at the Brickyard 400 and led a race-high 87 laps, but once again, Busch didn’t lead when it counted. Only Martin Truex Jr. (1,260 laps led) has paced more laps than Busch’s 1,040 this season, yet those flashes of dominance have translated into three victories for Truex and zero for Busch. It has been one year since the Joe Gibbs Racing driver went to victory lane in a Cup Series race, and it may not get any easier this weekend. Pocono is one of only two active tracks (also Charlotte) where Busch, who has 38 career Cup wins, has never prevailed at NASCAR’s highest level.
PLAYOFF HOPEFULS TAKE HIT: The Brickyard 400 shook up the points race in a major way as Kahne became the 12th driver to clinch a spot in the playoffs with a win. That leaves only four berths for winless drivers with just six races left in the regular season. Assuming there are slots remaining for winless drivers once the regular season ends, eligible drivers must be in the top 16 in points. So the scramble is on.
Two hopefuls — Chase Elliott and Clint Bowyer — took damaging hits at Indianapolis. Elliott finished 39th after his engine expired, and Bowyer finished 30th after a hard multicar crash. Bowyer fell outside the top 16 cutline for a playoff transfer spot, while Elliott lost ground to Jamie McMurray, who leapfrogged the Hendrick Motorsports driver in playoff positioning. Elliott fell to 15th in his playoff push, 22 points ahead of Matt Kenseth, who occupies the final transfer spot heading into Pocono.
PENSKE’S GOOD NEWS/BAD NEWS: First the bad news. Team owner Roger Penske saw a great chance to capture his first Cup Series win at IMS — where he has won a record 16 Indianapolis 500s — evaporate when Keselowski fell to Kahne on the final restart. The good news? Joey Logano joined Keselowski in the top four Sunday. Keselowski had crashed in two of the three races leading up to the Brickyard, while Logano had managed only one top-five finish since the beginning of May. Like Kahne, the two Team Penske drivers will try to build on that momentum at the Tricky Triangle, where each has won before — Logano from the pole in 2012 and Keselowski in 2011.
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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Kasey Kahne needed a break Sunday — and got it.
The 37-year-old driver barely reached the overtime line before the last caution flag came out in a crash-marred Brickyard 400, allowing Kahne to complete a six-hour marathon and snap a long winless streak.
He crossed the yard of bricks under caution with daylight fading and his muscles cramping, just ahead of Brad Keselowski and Ryan Newman.
“I had a great car out front. I had a pretty good car all day long. I was really happy,” Kahne said. “Unbelievable to win in Indianapolis. Unbelievable to win a Cup race — it’s been a while. I know it’s great for my team.”
But even before kissing the bricks and posing for photos, Kahne’s long-awaited victory celebration was put on hold as he dropped to the ground and his crew members tried to rub out the cramps he fought through late in the race.
Afterward, Kahne went to the speedway’s infield medical center where he received intravenous fluids. Other drivers said temperatures inside the cockpits topped 130 degrees.
The wacky race had a little of everything — 14 cautions and 55 caution laps, both race records, three red flags and a 1-hour, 47-minute rain delay. Nineteen cars did not finish. It lasted so long, drivers were racing against the impending darkness as much as they were themselves.
For Kahne, his 18th career win might have been the sweetest of all.
He had only three top-10 finishes in the first 19 races. His future with Hendrick Motorsports was in question, and after going almost three full years and more than 100 races without a win, he was finally back in victory lane.
“It puts him in the chase,” team owner Rick Hendrick said after his 10th Brickyard victory. “It puts him in the playoff. We’re excited about that.”
Kahne’s last win came in Atlanta in August 2014.
By any measure, it was a wacky day.
The two fastest cars on Indy’s 2.5-mile oval — Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. — went out in a crash with 49 laps to go. Truex’s car slid up the track going through the first turn and the Toyota teammates both wound in the wall. Busch led the first 71 laps, 87 of the first 110 and swept the first two stages ahead of Truex.
“That’s the way it goes,” Busch said. “Just chalk it up to another one we found a way to lose.”
The finish was even wilder.
Over the last 16 laps, there were five crashes and two red flags.
The craziness began when Kurt Busch, Erik Jones and Clint Bowyer got together coming out of the fourth turn. On the ensuing restart, Kyle Larson hit the wall on the front straightaway to bring out another caution.
Things again went awry when Jimmie Johnson, Keselowski and Kahne went three-wide through the third turn on what was supposed to be the second-to-last lap. But Johnson’s smoking car started spinning and hit the wall to force overtime.
“I wouldn’t call it an absurdity, I just think it was a crazy race,” Keselowski said. “There was some crazy strategy.”
Trevor Bayne got into the mix with two laps in the first overtime when his car was bumped from behind, sending it sideways through the field. Six cars got collected in the crash, bringing out yet another red flag and adding more laps to the race.
Kahne finally ended it by reaching the line just ahead of Keselowski as another multi-car crash occurred behind him.
“As much as I didn’t need him winning I’m happy for @kaseykahne,” Clint Bowyer wrote on Twitter. “People have written him off lately. HUGE win under extreme pressure.”
The next generation of Cup drivers struggled Sunday.
Larson, who was a big mover early in the race, finished 28th. Chase Elliott was knocked out after 43 laps because of an engine failure and wound up 39th.
Ryan Blaney also was knocked out in one of the late crashes and finished 23rd.
EARNHARDT & DANICA RESULTS
Dale Earnhardt Jr. also had a tough day in his final Brickyard start. The 42-year-old driver damaged his radiator when he hit the back of Bayne’s car on Lap 77 and wound up pulling off the track and stopping underneath the Gasoline Alley sign. When he climbed out, Earnhardt received a loud roar.
“There was just a bunch of cars slowing down, starting a chain reaction. We got into the back of (Bayne),” he said. “It just knocked the radiator out of us. We had a great car. We had a top-10 car. I thought we could finish there.”
Former IndyCar favorite Danica Patrick received a penalty for a pit violation early in the race and finished 11th.
Next Sunday, the series moves to Pocono, Pennsylvania, where Chris Buescher is the defending champion.
BRANTLEY GILBERT BIG MACHINE BRICKYARD 400
Sunday’s results from the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway (starting position in parentheses):
1. (19) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 167 laps, 0 rating, 40 points.
2. (11) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 167, 0, 37.
3. (8) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 167, 0, 34.
4. (7) Joey Logano, Ford, 167, 0, 43.
5. (14) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 167, 0, 42.
6. (2) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 167, 0, 44.
7. (15) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 167, 0, 30.
8. (27) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 167, 0, 29.
9. (26) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 167, 0, 28.
10. (39) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 167, 0, 27.
11. (23) Danica Patrick, Ford, 167, 0, 26.
12. (34) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 167, 0, 25.
13. (29) Aric Almirola, Ford, 167, 0, 24.
14. (37) Timmy Hill, Chevrolet, 167, 0, 0.
15. (3) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 167, 0, 27.
16. (17) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 167, 0, 21.
17. (5) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 166, 0, 23.
18. (24) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 166, 0, 19.
19. (28) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 165, 0, 18.
20. (22) Trevor Bayne, Ford, accident, 162, 0, 17.
21. (20) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, accident, 162, 0, 16.
22. (31) Landon Cassill, Ford, garage, 162, 0, 15.
23. (10) Ryan Blaney, Ford, accident, 162, 0, 30.
24. (35) Gray Gaulding, Chevrolet, accident, 162, 0, 13.
25. (38) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, accident, 162, 0, 0.
26. (36) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 162, 0, 11.
27. (4) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, accident, 158, 0, 12.
28. (25) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, accident, 154, 0, 12.
29. (12) Kurt Busch, Ford, accident, 149, 0, 8.
30. (18) Clint Bowyer, Ford, accident, 148, 0, 7.
31. (9) Erik Jones, Toyota, accident, 148, 0, 13.
32. (40) BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, 135, 0, 0.
33. (6) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, accident, 110, 0, 22.
34. (1) Kyle Busch, Toyota, accident, 110, 0, 23.
35. (21) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, accident, 106, 0, 2.
36. (13) Dale Earnhardt Jr, Chevrolet, accident, 76, 0, 2.
37. (33) JJ Yeley, Chevrolet, accident, 70, 0, 0.
38. (30) David Ragan, Ford, accident, 56, 0, 1.
39. (16) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, engine, 43, 0, 1.
40. (32) Corey Lajoie, Toyota, accident, 9, 0, 1.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 114.383 mph.
Time of Race: 3 hours, 39 minutes, 0 seconds.
Margin of Victory: Under Caution.
Caution Flags: 14 for 55 laps.
Lead Changes: 10 among 7 drivers.
Lap Leaders: Ky.Busch 1-71; E.Jones 72-80; R.Blaney 81-86; Ky.Busch 87-102; M.Truex 103-110; M.Kenseth 111-131; E.Jones 132; B.Keselowski 133-151; K.Kahne 152-161; B.Keselowski 162-165; K.Kahne 166-167
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): Ky.Busch, 2 times for 85 laps; B.Keselowski, 2 times for 21 laps; M.Kenseth, 1 time for 20 laps; K.Kahne, 2 times for 10 laps; E.Jones, 2 times for 8 laps; M.Truex, 1 time for 7 laps; R.Blaney, 1 time for 5 laps.
Wins: J.Johnson, 3; M.Truex, 3; B.Keselowski, 2; K.Larson, 2; R.Stenhouse, 2; R.Blaney, 1; Ku.Busch, 1; A.Dillon, 1; D.Hamlin, 1; K.Harvick, 1; K.Kahne, 1; J.Logano, 1; R.Newman, 1.
Top 16 in Points: 1. M.Truex, 780; 2. K.Larson, 732; 3. K.Harvick, 683; 4. Ky.Busch, 673; 5. D.Hamlin, 612; 6. B.Keselowski, 601; 7. J.McMurray, 599; 8. C.Elliott, 588; 9. M.Kenseth, 566; 10. J.Johnson, 564; 11. C.Bowyer, 533; 12. R.Blaney, 516; 13. J.Logano, 515; 14. Ku.Busch, 463; 15. R.Newman, 462; 16. R.Stenhouse, 443.
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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Rookie William Byron bobbed and weaved through the final two laps Saturday and held off Paul Menard to win the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The victory margin of 0.108 seconds was the narrowest in race history. Joey Logano was third, more than three seconds behind.
Kyle Busch finished 12th, failing in his bid to become the first driver to win five consecutive races on Indy’s 2.5-mile layout.
The 19-year-old Byron has won three of his last five starts, the last two at Daytona and Indy. This time, he needed some savvy moves to block Menard, and some good luck to complete the final laps with what he thought was a deflating tire.
Byron also won the first stage over Busch by 0.113 seconds. Pole-winner Elliott Sadler won a caution-flag marred second stage under caution, just ahead of Brennan Poole.
Lap length: 2.50 miles
(Start position in parentheses)
1. (3) William Byron, Chevrolet, 100 laps, 0 rating, 50 points.
2. (15) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 100, 0, 0.
3. (12) Joey Logano, Ford, 100, 0, 0.
4. (1) Elliott Sadler, Chevrolet, 100, 0, 45.
5. (6) Cole Custer, Ford, 100, 0, 39.
6. (10) Ryan Reed, Ford, 100, 0, 31.
7. (17) Brennan Poole, Chevrolet, 100, 0, 45.
8. (13) Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 100, 0, 37.
9. (14) Brandon Jones, Chevrolet, 100, 0, 34.
10. (19) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 100, 0, 0.
11. (7) Matt Tifft, Toyota, 100, 0, 27.
12. (11) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 100, 0, 0.
13. (16) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 100, 0, 31.
14. (8) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 100, 0, 25.
15. (21) JJ Yeley, Toyota, 100, 0, 25.
16. (23) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 100, 0, 26.
17. (22) Blake Koch, Chevrolet, 100, 0, 20.
18. (9) Ben Kennedy, Chevrolet, 100, 0, 23.
19. (25) Jeb Burton, Toyota, 100, 0, 18.
20. (24) Dakoda Armstrong, Toyota, 99, 0, 17.
21. (33) Garrett Smithley, Chevrolet, 99, 0, 16.
22. (29) Harrison Rhodes, Chevrolet, 99, 0, 15.
23. (2) Erik Jones, Toyota, 99, 0, 0.
24. (30) Ray Black Jr, Chevrolet, 99, 0, 13.
25. (5) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 99, 0, 12.
26. (31) Tommy Joe Martins, Chevrolet, 99, 0, 11.
27. (26) Mario Gosselin, Chevrolet, 99, 0, 10.
28. (20) Spencer Gallagher, Chevrolet, 99, 0, 9.
29. (35) David Starr, Chevrolet, 99, 0, 8.
30. (37) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 98, 0, 7.
31. (32) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 98, 0, 7.
32. (39) Chad Finchum, Chevrolet, 98, 0, 5.
33. (34) BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, 93, 0, 4.
34. (40) Mike Harmon, Dodge, transmission, 90, 0, 3.
35. (4) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 86, 0, 2.
36. (36) Timmy Hill, Toyota, clutch, 40, 0, 1.
37. (18) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, accident, 38, 0, 5.
38. (27) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, vibration, 23, 0, 0.
39. (38) Morgan Shepherd, Chevrolet, engine, 22, 0, 1.
40. (28) Jeff Green, Chevrolet, vibration, 9, 0, 1.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 126.232 mph.
Time of Race: 1 hour, 58 minutes, 50 seconds.
Margin of Victory: 0.108 seconds.
Caution Flags: 5 for 22 laps.
Lead Changes: 16 among 8 drivers.
Lap Leaders: E.Sadler 1-16; K.Busch 17; M.Shepherd 18; D.Hemric 19; K.Busch 20-22; W.Byron 23-31; H.Rhodes 32; K.Busch 33-52; J.Allgaier 53-56; K.Busch 57; E.Sadler 58-60; G.Smithley 61; K.Busch 62-69; W.Byron 70; K.Busch 71-81; E.Sadler 82-84; W.Byron 85-100
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): K.Busch, 6 times for 38 laps; W.Byron, 3 times for 23 laps; E.Sadler, 3 times for 19 laps; J.Allgaier, 1 time for 3 laps; D.Hemric, 1 time for 0 laps; H.Rhodes, 1 time for 0 laps; M.Shepherd, 1 time for 0 laps; G.Smithley, 1 time for 0 laps.
Wins: K.Busch, 3; W.Byron, 3; E.Jones, 2; J.Allgaier, 1; J.Logano, 1; R.Reed, 1.
Top 10 in Points: 1. E.Sadler, 665; 2. W.Byron, 625; 3. J.Allgaier, 532; 4. B.Poole, 473; 5. D.Hemric, 458; 6. C.Custer, 435; 7. M.Tifft, 414; 8. R.Reed, 408; 9. D.Armstrong, 368; 10. M.Annett, 367.
(PhatzRadio Sports / FTW) —- We’re halfway through the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, and the playoffs are practically around the corner. It’s been an interesting year so far, and you could even call it a little strange.
So to quickly recap the oddities through the first 19 races of the season, here are the seven biggest surprises so far, numbered but in no particular order.
(Note: Dale Earnhardt Jr. announcing his retirement is not on this list. After suffering a concussion and missing half of last year, his career could have been over then because of the many challenges he faced. So his exit is a huge blow to the NASCAR world, but it’s not quite a surprise.)
This is one of the most talked about storylines of the season, but it’s still a big shocker. The No. 18 Toyota driver has accumulated 38 wins throughout his career with nine in the last two years alone. The last season he finished without a win was back in 2004 when he wasn’t even a full-time driver, so he’ll probably win one of these weekends. But without it, he doesn’t have a guaranteed spot in the 16-driver playoffs this fall.
In his fifth full-time season and after 157 winless races, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finally earned his first Cup Series victory at the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway in May. But two months later, he surprised everyone again when he won the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Not many racing fans would have bet that Stenhouse would have more wins than Kevin Harvick (1), Joey Logano (1) or Busch through July.
An extension of Busch getting shut out, it took Joe Gibbs’ team 19 races to get its first win. Thanks to Denny Hamlin on Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, JGR’s winless drought dating back to last year was snapped, but the team looks totally different compared with 2016.
At this point last season, JGR had won eight of 19 events. Busch and Carl Edwards – who all but retired – were major factors, combining for four consecutive wins at one point. Rookie Daniel Suárez replaced Edwards this year, so he’s still getting comfortable at the next level. But that doesn’t explain why Busch, Hamlin and Matt Kenseth have struggled.
The 45-year-old driver doesn’t have a ride next season, which he actually announced before his team did a few weeks ago. Despite winning 16 races over five seasons for JGR, Kenseth is being replaced by 21-year-old Erik Jones in 2018. Where the 2003 Cup Series champion’s career goes from here is anybody’s guess.
Not only are Truex and seven-time Cup Series champ Jimmie Johnson leading the series with three wins apiece, but the No. 78 Toyota driver is destroying the field in the stages. He has an unbelievable 14 stage wins so far along with 29 playoff points. Busch is second on the list with just five stage wins, while Johnson’s is next with 16 playoff points. Truex was great last year with four race wins, but no one could have anticipated this kind of consistent speed every weekend.
Joey Logano won the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway back in April, but it’s encumbered after failing the post-race inspection. He still gets credit for the win but lost the automatic playoff berth.
Since then, the No. 22 Ford driver has struggled. Including the Richmond race, he finished in the top-10 eight out of nine times. But through the next ten events, he did so only twice, he’s wrecked three times and he has an average finish of 23.3. If the playoffs started today, Logano wouldn’t make the cut – a steep difference compared with being just three points away from the 2016 series championship.
Thanks to wins from Ryan Newman at Phoenix Raceway in March and Austin Dillon at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May, RCR has two drivers locked into the playoffs. Although they’ve both been fairly mediocre since their respective wins, it’s still surprising to see this team with more drivers qualified for the playoffs than powerhouses JGR, Hendrick Motorsports and Team Penske – who each have one driver in.
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ROSSBURG, Ohio (AP) — Matt Crafton’s time racing on dirt tracks over the past year paid off at Eldora Speedway.
Matt Crafton won the Eldorda Dirt Derby on Wednesday night for his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory in more than a year.
The two-time series champion passed Stewart Friesen with 17 laps to go in the 150-lap race and won by 1.96 seconds in ThorSport Racing’s No. 88 Toyota. Crafton won for the first time since May 2016 at Charlotte.
Crafton bought a dirt modified car and had been running it at different places including Eldora, the half-mile that is owned by three-time NASCAR Cup champion Tony Stewart.
“It has helped a lot, learning what the truck does and seeing what spots to pass,” Crafton said after ending a 27-race drought. “Previously, I didn’t know what I was looking at but I just kept studying and studying.”
Crafton’s previous best finish at Eldora was eighth in the first race in 2013. He has 14 career series victories.
Crafton also won the first 40-lap stage after passing Friesen with seven laps to go.
Friesen won the second stage, which was 50 laps. A Canadian with dirt-track experience, Friesen started from the pole, led a race-high 93 laps and finished a career-best second in a Chevy.
Chase Briscoe was third in a Ford, Grant Enfinger fourth in a Toyota and John Hunter Nemechek fifth in a Chevy.
Series points leader Johnny Sauter was involved in an early wreck and finished 23rd. He has a seven-point lead over Christopher Bell.
OTHER NASCAR NEWS:
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Dale Earnhardt Jr. got the replacement he wanted. Alex Bowman got his dream job.
Hendrick Motorsports announced Thursday that the 24-year-old Bowman will replace one of the series’ biggest stars in the No. 88 car next season after Earnhardt retires.
Bowman has big shoes to fill. Earnhardt was named NASCAR’s most popular driver each of the last 14 seasons and fans of his late father often tracked Junior’s results following Dale Earnhardt’s fatal crash in the 2001 season opener at Daytona.
“Ever since I was a kid, racing is all I’ve wanted to do,” Bowman said. “I’ve had so many people believe in me along the way. My family has sacrificed a lot and always been behind me. I would never have this chance without the support of Dale and everyone involved with the No. 88 team. To be part of Hendrick Motorsports and for Mr. Hendrick to have this confidence in me, it’s just amazing.”
Bowman already has some experience in this job. When the 42-year-old Earnhardt missed 18 races because of a concussion last season, Bowman started 10 of them in the No. 88, winning the first Cup pole of his career and finishing in the top 10 three times.
That was enough to get Earnhardt’s attention and eventually an endorsement in May.
“Alex Bowman to the 88 next year — is that what you guys want?” Junior asked during a livestream on Periscope following the series’ All-Star race. “That would be pretty awesome to see Alex in that car. That’s the plan, I hope. . Yeah, Alex in the 88. That sounds good to me. That kid earned it last year. He ran good.”
The 24-year-old Bowman performed well enough to get several full-time offers to drive in the Cup series this year.
Instead, he stayed patient. Bowman said he turned down each offer as he continued searching for the right situation. The Tucson, Arizona, native wound up with no full-time ride in 2017.
But with Earnhardt’s concussion history, Bowman likely knew it wouldn’t be long until he stepped away. Rick Hendrick’s team contemplated its options for months before finally deciding bring back Bowman.
In 81 career Cup starts and 50 career starts in the Xfinity Series, Bowman has never won a race. But he had 13 top-finishes and won three poles on the Xfinity circuit before blossoming in Earnhardt’s car last season.
He joins a series that is clearly in transition.
With television ratings and attendance sagging and three major stars — Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Earnhardt — retiring since 2015, Bowman will become yet another prominent fresh face in a series that currently has five drivers who are in their 20s in the top 15.
The announcement comes two days Earnhardt attempts to qualify for his final Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis. The race is scheduled to be run Sunday.
More AP auto racing: http://racing.ap.org
(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports) —- In retrospect, perhaps Denny Hamlin’s victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway shouldn’t be surprising.
Despite Hamlin and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates enduring a frustrating and winless campaign prior to Sunday’s race, the signs were there that the 1.058-mile oval could be the track where the organization finally broke through.
JGR has now won six of the last 10 races at Loudon — dating back to the fall of 2012 when Hamlin dominated — leading nearly two-thirds of the laps. Since then, Matt Kenseth has won three times and finished second in another, and Kyle Busch tallied one win and three-runner-up finishes.
Team owner Joe Gibbs, crew chief Michael Wheeler and Hamlin all noted the success the organization has had at the New England track, and credited a mix of style, comfort and setup for its recent run:
• “For whatever reason, this has been a favorite place for our drivers, crew chiefs,” Gibbs said. “Denny, if he picked a racetrack, it would probably be here in Loudon where he would like to have his final race at. Certainly anything about this place has been good for us.”
• “Once you get a package here that works good and you understand why, it’s easy to kind of duplicate over time, do different tire changes and aero changes,” Wheeler said. “It might take a race or two to get it back, but once the drivers get a good feel for what it takes to get around here, get in the corner, get off the corner, you can go year in, year out and try to get that same feel for them again.”
• “I think it probably started with Tony Stewart many, many years ago (Stewart won at New Hampshire with JGR in 2000 and 2005),” Hamlin said. “I watched him many times get around this racetrack, and the track has changed a lot over the years. The cars have changed. But just kind of being a student to the game and seeing what all he’s done. … I just kind of levitated to that ever since I got in a race car on a short track, and I think it’s raised all of our games.
“Really the short tracks and flat tracks weren’t really Kyle’s forte. We worked together so much now over the last few years, he’s really good if not exceeded beyond that. Matt has come in and been dominant at this racetrack and so we look at him and look at his notes, and so I think it’s just kind of a feeding off of all the good things that have happened here, and everyone is just working off of that and getting better.”
Here are four other takeaways from Sunday’s race at New Hampshire:
No change at the top: While Hamlin may have crossed the finish line first, the result didn’t do much to dent the fact that Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson are the two best drivers this season. Larson, who has won twice, and Truex, a three-time winner, finished second and third, respectively, and increased their margins at the top of the standings. New Hampshire marked the fifth time this season where Truex, the points leader; and Larson, who currently ranks second; finished in the top four in the same race (also Las Vegas, Fontana, Dover, Kentucky). One or the other has topped the points since the fourth race of the season at Phoenix Raceway, and the gap to third in points — occupied by Kyle Busch — now stands at 108.
Penalties have not derailed Larson: In a span of three days, Larson was penalized twice by NASCAR — first for failing postrace inspection at Kentucky Speedway and then for failing post-qualifying inspection at Loudon. The Kentucky penalty cost Larson the points lead and the New Hampshire penalty cost Larson the pole, but the Chip Ganassi Racing driver was unfazed even after starting from the rear of the field.
“I think with how fast we’ve been running and all that, NASCAR has kept a closer eye on our team in particular,” Larson said after the race. “Obviously, I don’t think it really affected us, which is a good thing, because the little stuff that we got in trouble for so far hasn’t seemed to affect the performance. Just got to keep working hard on the areas of our race car that are legal and find some more speed that way.”
Logano loses ground: Since his victory at Richmond Raceway, which NASCAR subsequently ruled was encumbered and couldn’t be used to secure a playoff berth, things have not gone well for Joey Logano. The Team Penske driver has now finished outside the top 20 in seven of the past 10 races and outside the top 30 in four of those, including Sunday’s 37th-place showing after a handling issue forced him to the garage for repairs. Logano, who ended 2016 second in the standings, now finds himself outside of the playoffs — 52 points behind Kenseth, who currently holds the 16th and final transfer spot.
Patrick’s silver lining: Danica Patrick has not had a memorable season by anyone’s standards — with just one top-10 finish in 19 races — but the Stewart-Haas Racing driver earned a solid result for the second consecutive week. After rolling to a 15th-place result at Kentucky, Patrick rallied to a 13th-place finish after starting 30th at New Hampshire. She next heads to a track at which she is intimately familiar — Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Though her NASCAR results haven’t been particularly stellar at the Brickyard — with a best finish of 22nd last year — Patrick tallied six top-10s in seven Indianapolis 500 races in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
Follow Horrow on Twitter @EllenJHorrow
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LOUDON, N.H. (AP) — Joe Gibbs Racing has undergone an unexpected upheaval that forced the organization into a youth movement.
The biggest surprise, though, was going 0 for 2017.
Denny Hamlin ended that rut with the kind of finish down the stretch that showed that — yes, the new generation may be on the way — but the JGR lynchpin still knows how to win.
Hamlin held off Kyle Larson over the final laps Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to send Gibbs to its first victory of the season.
One of the top organizations in NASCAR, JGR had yet to have any of its four drivers win until Hamlin took the lead with 33 laps left and held off the hard-charging Larson on the final lap.
Hamlin needed his 30th career Cup victory to secure a berth in NASCAR’s version of the postseason and end a winless streak that stretched to last September at Richmond.
“Definitely needed a win for the organization, for myself,” Hamlin said.
He’ll take the checkered flag — just hold the nutcracker.
Hamlin, who has a Cup win in each of his 12 seasons, gave everyone a laugh when he scampered away from the lobster traditionally awarded to the winner in victory lane.
“I have a lobster phobia,” he said.
Larson had a sensational run from the rear of the field, where he was forced to start because he failed inspection after he won the pole. Larson lost his points lead last week and his crew chief was suspended after failing a post-race inspection at Kentucky.
Hamlin crashed the No. 11 Toyota in practice and was forced to race in a backup car. It seemed to suit him just fine at New Hampshire.
Martin Truex Jr., was third, followed by Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick.
JGR won seven of the first 12 races last season and Carl Edwards was 10 laps away from a possible championship when he crashed out in the finale. Daniel Suarez replaced Edwards this season, and Hamlin, Kenseth and Kyle Busch have made strong runs at the checkered flag, they just couldn’t find the winning formula until New Hampshire.
“It’s not from a lack of trying,” Hamlin said.
JGR also announced this week that Erik Jones would replace two-time Daytona 500 champion Kenseth in the No. 20 next season. With Hamlin sending the crowd into a frenzy by burning the tires down, Sunday was simply a reason for the organization to celebrate.
Jones and Suarez will soon be expected to carry the load into the next decade once Busch and the 36-year-old Hamlin finish their careers.
“They’re going to be there long after I’m gone,” Hamlin said. “They’ll be the team leaders. You just try and set an example for them. Show the work ethic that it takes to be a winner on a weekly basis. Hopefully, that infectious-type atmosphere bleeds into them and they lead the team after we’re gone.”
Larson was second and nearly caught Hamlin — after a trying week where NASCAR caught Larson’s Chip Ganassi team trying to tinker a bit too much outside the rule book on the No. 42 Chevrolet.
Larson’s team was penalized 35 points this week, erasing what had been a one-point advantage over Truex in the driver standings. Truex, who led 137 laps, leads the standings by 38 points over Larson.
Larson’s pole-winning time was disallowed because of an unapproved rear deck fin lid.
“NASCAR’s kept a closer eye on our team, in particular,” Larson said. “Had to go to the back. I don’t think that really affected us which I think is a good thing. The little stuff we got in trouble for so far hasn’t affected our performance. We’ve got to keep working hard on the areas on our race car that are legal and find more speed that way.”
Here are other items of note from New Hampshire:
Joey Logano’s miserable stretch continued on his home track. Logano, who needs a win or a string of strong finishes to make NASCAR’s playoffs, was forced off the track on the third stage because of a suspension issue. NASCAR seized a rear suspension part with the No. 22 Ford in the garage. He finished 37th.
The Connecticut driver reeled off six top-five finishes in the first nine races that included a win at Richmond. The win did not count toward the playoffs because of rules violations. Logano has posted just two top-10 finishes over the last 10 races and this was the fifth time he finished 25th or worse.
The race was stopped for 5 1/2 minutes when a pot hole opened on the track. The hole was discovered just before the second stage and crews hit the scene to make repairs.
Aric Almirola finished 24th in his first race since he suffered a fractured vertebra during a fiery multi-car wreck May 13 at Kanas Speedway.
Kyle Busch heads to Indianapolis to try and win his third straight Brickyard 400 championship. Busch has not won a Cup race since he kissed the bricks at Indy.
(Starting position in parentheses)
1. (8) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 301.
2. (39) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 301.
3. (1) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 301.
4. (3) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 301.
5. (12) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 301.
6. (14) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 301.
7. (19) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 301.
8. (9) Kurt Busch, Ford, 301.
9. (10) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 301.
10. (2) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 301.
11. (11) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 301.
12. (7) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 301.
13. (30) Danica Patrick, Ford, 301.
14. (17) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 301.
15. (26) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 301.
16. (25) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 301.
17. (4) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 301.
18. (18) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 301.
19. (15) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 301.
20. (27) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 301.
21. (23) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 301.
22. (29) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 301.
23. (28) Landon Cassill, Ford, 301.
24. (21) Aric Almirola, Ford, 301.
25. (22) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 300.
26. (20) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 300.
27. (24) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 300.
28. (5) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 300.
29. (32) David Ragan, Ford, 300.
30. (16) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 299.
31. (31) Corey LaJoie, Toyota, 298.
32. (36) Ryan Sieg, Toyota, 298.
33. (37) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 297.
34. (35) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 296.
35. (34) Gray Gaulding, Toyota, 295.
36. (38) Josh Bilicki, Chevrolet, 290.
37. (13) Joey Logano, Ford, 269.
38. (33) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, Engine, 66.
39. (6) Erik Jones, Toyota, Accident, 40.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 105.8 mph.
Time of Race: 3 hours, 0 minutes, 36 seconds. Margin of Victory: 0.509 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 7 for 34 laps.
Lead Changes: 11 among 6 drivers.
Lap Leaders: M. Truex Jr. 1-78; Kyle Busch 79-153; D. Hamlin 154-173; M. Truex Jr. 174-217; Kyle Busch 218-237; K. Larson 238; D. Earnhardt Jr. 239-245; M. Truex Jr. 246-260; M. Kenseth 261-263; D. Earnhardt Jr. 264-266; M. Kenseth 267; D. Hamlin 268-301.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): M. Truex Jr. 3 times for 137 laps; Kyle Busch 2 times for 95 laps; D. Hamlin 2 times for 54 laps; D. Earnhardt Jr. 2 times for 10 laps; M. Kenseth 2 times for 4 laps; K. Larson 1 time for 1 lap.
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LOUDON, N.H. (AP) — Kyle Busch tossed his 2-year-old son in the air during his latest victory lane celebration.
He’s taking baby steps toward catching The King.
Busch dominated yet again to win the NASCAR Xfinity Series race Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
He won for the third time this season and 89th time in his career in the second-tier series. He has 175 career wins over NASCAR’s three national series: Cup (38 wins; 2015 champion); Xfinity (89; 2009 champion); and Truck (48).
“I know a lot of those are the minors, so I’ll take them where I can get ‘em as of right now,” Busch said. “But certainly there’s going to be a lot more wins to be had on Sundays, as well. I’ve got a long road ahead of me, probably.”
Richard Petty is NASCAR’s career leader with 200 wins, all at the Cup level.
Busch started from the pole and wasn’t challenged much late after an early duel with fellow Cup regular Brad Keselowski. Keselowski led 102 laps but had nothing for Busch down the stretch because of a pit road penalty.
“It is always fun being fast and leading the most laps and all that but we just didn’t put the whole race together,” Keselowski said.
Busch’s No. 18 Toyota was one of just six cars that finished on the lead lap.
Ryan Preece was second, followed William Byron, Kyle Larson and Keselowski. Larson was scheduled to start Sunday’s Cup race from the pole until his car failed inspection and forced him to the rear of the field.
Series points leader Elliott Sadler was seventh in a race that included a 58-minute rain delay. He has a 45-point lead over Byron.
The 19-year-old Byron continued to drive like one of the future stars of NASCAR, earning his sixth top-five of the season. He has two victories driving for JR Motorsports and has made a case as a candidate to replace Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 at Hendrick Motorsports next season.
Earnhardt, long NASCAR’s most popular driver, left the team’s top Cup seat available when he announced he would retire from the series at the end of the season.
Alex Bowman, who ably filled in for the injured Earnhardt last season, is perhaps the top contender to drive the 88. But Byron and free agent Matt Kenseth are certainly in the mix — and the odds of landing at Hendrick improve if the organization decides to cut ties with the slumping Kasey Kahne.
Team owner Rick Hendrick watched the race from atop Byron’s pit box.
“He did a great job. Very impressive the way he works traffic and the feedback on the radio. Really good,” Hendrick said. “The guys are giving him good cars, but he’s got a lot of talent, and he’s a quick learner. He’s fast. He goes right to the edge in a hurry. He’s doing a good job. I’m real proud of him.”
Hendrick refused to tip his hand on a timetable for the 88 replacement.
“Too early. Man, this is just, what, July? Just July,” he said, laughing.
Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, the leader at Hendrick, has kept an eye on Byron’s rapid rise through the ranks.
“It’s fun watching him grow. At his age, I just don’t want to be in too big of a hurry,” he said.
Byron, who won seven Truck Series races last season, dismissed questions about his future.
“It’s good to be running like this. It feels really good for our team,” he said. “It’s cool to have Mr. Hendrick out here supporting us and everyone at JRM. It’s neat. It’s been a good couple of weeks. We’ve finished in the top 10 the last six weeks or something like that. It’s really something to be proud of. I feel like we’re able to build on that and hopefully take it to Indy and keep progressing.”
Keep progressing all the way to Cup?
OVERTON’S 200 RESULTS
Saturday from the 1.058-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway (starting position in parentheses):
1. (1) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 200 laps, 0 rating, 0 points.
2. (6) Ryan Preece, Toyota, 200, 0, 51.
3. (7) William Byron, Chevrolet, 200, 0, 42.
4. (3) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 200, 0, 0.
5. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 200, 0, 0.
6. (13) Ben Kennedy, Chevrolet, 200, 0, 32.
7. (8) Elliott Sadler, Chevrolet, 199, 0, 42.
8. (12) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 199, 0, 0.
9. (10) Cole Custer, Ford, 199, 0, 28.
10. (9) Brennan Poole, Chevrolet, 199, 0, 33.
11. (4) Matt Tifft, Toyota, 199, 0, 30.
12. (5) Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 199, 0, 25.
13. (14) Blake Koch, Chevrolet, 199, 0, 24.
14. (19) Ryan Reed, Ford, 198, 0, 23.
15. (21) JJ Yeley, Toyota, 198, 0, 22.
16. (23) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 198, 0, 21.
17. (16) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 197, 0, 20.
18. (24) Harrison Rhodes, Chevrolet, 197, 0, 19.
19. (18) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 197, 0, 18.
20. (20) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 197, 0, 17.
21. (26) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 197, 0, 16.
22. (39) Dylan Lupton, Toyota, 196, 0, 15.
23. (25) Garrett Smithley, Chevrolet, 195, 0, 14.
24. (15) Dakoda Armstrong, Toyota, 195, 0, 13.
25. (34) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 195, 0, 12.
26. (27) BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, 194, 0, 11.
27. (32) Spencer Boyd, Chevrolet, 193, 0, 10.
28. (33) Timmy Hill, Chevrolet, 186, 0, 9.
29. (31) Tommy Joe Martins, Chevrolet, 185, 0, 8.
30. (28) David Starr, Chevrolet, 184, 0, 7.
31. (38) Mike Harmon, Dodge, 178, 0, 6.
32. (11) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 173, 0, 10.
33. (37) Martin Roy, Chevrolet, engine, 163, 0, 4.
34. (22) Brandon Jones, Chevrolet, 157, 0, 3.
35. (17) Spencer Gallagher, Chevrolet, suspension, 156, 0, 2.
36. (36) Carl Long, Toyota, electrical, 67, 0, 1.
37. (35) Morgan Shepherd, Chevrolet, suspension, 59, 0, 1.
38. (30) Jeff Green, Chevrolet, electrical, 15, 0, 1.
39. (29) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, brakes, 7, 0, 0.
40. (40) John Jackson, Chevrolet, accident, 4, 0, 0.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 109.284 mph.
Time of Race: 1 hour, 56 minutes, 11 seconds.
Margin of Victory: 10.425 seconds.
Caution Flags: 3 for 15 laps.
Lead Changes: 13 among 7 drivers.
Lap Leaders: K.Busch 1-2; B.Keselowski 3-7; K.Busch 8-27; B.Keselowski 28-33; J.Allgaier 34-35; E.Sadler 36-40; K.Larson 41-51; R.Preece 52-53; K.Busch 54-71; B.Keselowski 72-93; K.Busch 94-101; B.Keselowski 102-170; M.Tifft 171; K.Busch 172-200
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): B.Keselowski, 4 times for 98 laps; K.Busch, 5 times for 72 laps; K.Larson, 1 time for 10 laps; E.Sadler, 1 time for 4 laps; J.Allgaier, 1 time for 1 lap; R.Preece, 1 time for 1 lap; M.Tifft, 1 time for 0 laps.
Wins: K.Busch, 3; K.Larson, 3; W.Byron, 2; J.Allgaier, 1; B.Keselowski, 1; R.Reed, 1.
Top 10 in Points: 1. E.Sadler, 620; 2. W.Byron, 575; 3. J.Allgaier, 530; 4. B.Poole, 428; 5. D.Hemric, 421; 6. C.Custer, 396; 7. M.Tifft, 387; 8. R.Reed, 377; 9. M.Annett, 355; 10. D.Armstrong, 351.
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LOUDON, N.H. (AP) — Kyle Larson has made a habit of flunking NASCAR inspection.
Knocked from the top of the points standings this week because of an inspection failure, Larson was stripped of his pole Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and had his winning time tossed out for yet another infraction. He will start at the rear of the field in Sunday’s Cup race.
Martin Truex Jr. will lead the field to green for the first time this season.
“Not the way we wanted to get our first pole of the year but looking forward to starting up front,” Truex said.
Larson’s time was disallowed because of an unapproved rear deck fin lid. NASCAR said there would be no additional penalties.
He had raced to the top of the field without his suspended crew chief, turning a lap of 133.324 mph to win his fourth pole of the season. Larson’s team was penalized 35 points this week by NASCAR, erasing what had been a one-point advantage over Truex in the driver standings. Crew chief Chad Johnston was suspended for three races because of a rear brake cooling assembly that did not meet standards.
“I wish I could have him on the box on Sunday, but we will be strong these next few weeks,” Larson said.
Team owner Chip Ganassi did not appeal the penalty issued for failing post-race inspection at Kentucky. Tony Lunders served as the interim crew chief.
“I know nothing about race cars,” Larson said. “I don’t honestly know what it was that got us in trouble. Yeah, a big penalty so it must have been something important in their eyes.”
NASCAR’s eyes got bigger at New Hampshire — though Larson did pass pre-qualifying inspection.
Larson also started in the rear because of inspection issues at Kentucky Speedway.
“It’s really cool to get the pole the first week back after the penalty,” he said.
No so fast.
Truex has the pole and the rest of the field moved up a spot. Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray and Kasey Kahne completed the top five.
Johnson, the seven-time Cup champion, starts in the top five for the first time this season.
“Well damn, we’re starting second now. I should close my eyes in Q more often,” Johnson tweeted.
Kenseth had a solid round just days after it was announced he would be out at Joe Gibbs Racing at the end of the season. Furniture Row Racing driver Erik Jones, who will replace Kenseth, starts seventh. Kyle Busch starts eighth and Denny Hamlin ninth to give JGR three drivers in the top 10.
Kenseth, Busch and Hamlin are again all chasing Truex. Truex has three of wins driving for Furniture Row — which shares a technical alliance with JGR — while the Gibbs drivers remain winless.
“It’s the biggest question of the universe right now, probably, which is why the 78 is outperforming the house cars, so we’re just as confused and disgruntled by it as probably others,” Busch said. “I wish I had a theory. I’ve had probably 10 theories since they’ve joined us and none of them are true, so I’m done with theories.”
With Jones moving on, Furniture Row owner Barney Visser has not decided if the team will field two cars next season.
“I know his plans originally were not for this team to be a one-year deal,” Truex said. “We’ll just have to see how it all pans out, but I’ve enjoyed working with Erik. He’s been a good teammate. He’s a great kid. Love talking to him and hearing his point of view and things, so it would have been nice to have him for a couple years.”
LOUDON, N.H. (AP) — Matt Kenseth knows his NASCAR career will soon fade to black.
But the same week he was given a pink slip by Joe Gibbs Racing, Kenseth hit the road for a Metallica concert instead of pounding the pavement to find a ride in 2018.
“Actually made me feel 20 again for about four hours, which was pretty fun,” Kenseth said.
If Kenseth actually was 20, he’d be an in-demand driver for a Cup Series rapidly undergoing a changing of the guard. Young is cool. And for a sport desperately angling to hook a new generation of fans, 20-something drivers such as Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson and Erik Jones could lead the charge into the next decade and beyond. Some of that evolution comes at the expense of veteran drivers such as Kenseth, the 2003 Cup champion and a two-time Daytona 500 champion, who got the official news this week he was out at JGR at the end of the season.
The 21-year-old Jones will take Kenseth’s job in the No. 20 Toyota. Jones is on a one-year loaner contract to Gibbs’ sister team Furniture Row Racing, and Gibbs had to put Jones somewhere in 2018.
Kenseth’s fate had been in limbo — though it seemed obvious Jones was being groomed for the ride — and Gibbs made the transaction complete, leaving the 45-year-old driver without a car next year.
“I’m just glad they finally put it out so I don’t have to pretend anymore,” Kenseth said at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. “Everybody can ask you about it, everybody can move on and get back to racing.”
Kenseth, who qualified third at New Hampshire, said Friday he had no hard feelings toward the organization and has no concerns about his future. He also has no timetable for a decision but there are few options.
The best bet could be a one-year landing spot at Hendrick Motorsports driving the No. 88 Chevrolet. Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s ride will be open once he retires at the end of the season. Team owner Rick Hendrick has promising prospect William Byron, a 19-year-old Xfinity Series driver, and could consider Alex Bowman following a solid stint subbing last season for the injured Earnhardt.
Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson said sponsorship dollars would likely dictate who gets the coveted ride. Johnson, who will have a vote on his new teammate, also said Kenseth has the resume that will earn him a ride somewhere next season.
“Matt’s just too good,” he said. “The guy can win races and championships and that won’t be overlooked. But I do feel Matt’s at a point in his career where he just won’t take any ride.”
Kenseth has won 16 races over five seasons with JGR and is NASCAR’s oldest full-time driver. He is the veteran at Gibbs, which has 2015 champion Kyle Busch, Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin and reigning Xfinity Series champion Daniel Suarez. Kenseth, 11th in the standings in his 18th Cup season, said he knew for about a year he could be on the way out at JGR.
“I feel like we did a lot of great things,” Kenseth said. “I don’t think there’s anything to be bitter about or feel bad about. We’re both living up to the agreements we made.”
Outside of the 88, quality rides are slim for 2018.
“I hope to race next year,” Kenseth said. “I still enjoy racing. I still feel like I could be an asset to somebody, so I hope so.”
His other options include a bunch of maybes: Hendrick could cut ties with underachieving Kasey Kahne in the No. 5 and Stewart-Haas Racing may have two openings if Danica Patrick and Kurt Busch do not return. NASCAR has already lost veteran stars Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards over the last three seasons and the popular Earnhardt is on his way out.
The new generation is ready to take over. The cover of the New Hampshire race program shows Elliott and Larson in sunglasses with the headline “The Future is Bright: Elliott and Larson to Carry NASCAR Torch.”
“NASCAR needs Chase Elliott to win,” 2014 Cup champion Kevin Harvick said. “Chase Elliott is the tie to the traditional NASCAR fan. It’s the only shot they’ve got with the traditional NASCAR fan. His dad. The history and heritage of the sport. There isn’t anybody else in the lineup that I can think of.”
That includes Larson, a dirt tracker from California who will race anything at any time. Larson turned the fastest qualifying lap for Sunday’s race at New Hampshire before his time was disallowed for an inspection failure.
“A distant second,” Harvick said. “Dirt racing is great, but they don’t have the fanbase that a NASCAR-type fanbase does to help elevate him because most of those people aren’t going to go to a NASCAR race.”
Kenseth was once considered one of NASCAR’s hottest young drivers. He’s now riding out the string, hoping for a win and a strong showing down the stretch to showcase to other teams he still has something left for next year.
“We’re both going to work as hard as we can to win races, win a championship for JGR,” he said. “Next year doesn’t affect anything for this year at all. It really doesn’t.”
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