Obviously, it takes great skill to succeed as a driver in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series or any other top-level form of motorsports.
Along with talent and a good work ethic, it takes courage and toughness, two under-appreciated personality traits. And one of the most impressive displays of those attributes came at Pocono Raceway, site of Sunday’s Pocono 400 (1:30 p.m. ET, FS1).
At the three-turn, 2.5-mile Pennsylvania track, Brad Keselowski had a career-defining moment.
It came in August 2011, when Keselowski’s career was still in its early stages. At that time, Keselowski did something that he’d only done twice in 73 prior attempts: Win a race in NASCAR’s top division.
At Pocono, Keselowski didn’t simply win. He won with one broken ankle, one cut ankle, myriad bruises and bumps, and a right hand that was cut and blistered.
Four days prior to the Pocono race, Keselowski’s Penske Racing Dodge had a mechanical failure at Road Atlanta, where he hit a concrete wall head on at 100 miles per hour during a test of his road-course car.
The impact broke Keselowski’s left ankle and left it grotesquely swollen and discolored. The crash also left the driver bruised and sore all over his body.
And yet when race day rolled around, Keselowski refused to get out of his car and yield to a replacement driver.
Keselowski somehow went out and won at Pocono, a track where the left foot is busy all race long shifting and braking.
It was a true display of guts.
After the race, Keselowski was in so much pain he could barely lift the trophy. But when the race was on the line, the Michigan native came up huge at exactly the right time.
“I came here to win,” Keselowski said after his improbable victory. “When you let the pain get into your head that far that you don’t believe you can win anymore, you’ll never win. And I woke up this morning feeling like we could win the race. … If you don’t feel that way, you’re never going to win at anything you do.”
On that day at Pocono, Keselowski pushed on through the pain to score a historic victory and little more than a year later, he became a champion. Talent was part of Keselowski success, but he proved to the world that toughness was, too.
Kasey Kahne’s No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet will sport a new look at Sonoma Raceway.
The team unveiled the brand-new paint scheme Kahne will race in the June 25 Toyota/Save Mart 350 (3 p.m. ET, FS1), which features Microsoft Windows 10 sponsorship.
Kahne is currently 20th in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points standings mid-way through the regular season.
Check out his slick new scheme for Sonoma below.
Adam Stevens, tire changer Jacob Seminara and tire carrier Kenneth Barber have been suspended for four races each after a wheel came off of Kyle Busch’s No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Sunday at Dover International Speedway in the AAA 400 Drive for Autism Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.
So, too, was, Mike Hillman Jr., the crew chief for Chase Briscoe’s Brad Keselowski Racing Ford in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Briscoe also had a tire come off after a pit in last Friday’s Truck Series race at Dover. Along with Hillman, tire changer Wesley McPherson and tire carrier Eric Pinkiert were also suspended for four races each.
NASCAR rules call for a mandatory four-race suspension for the crew chief, tire changer and tire carrier if a wheel comes off on track.
Officially, the penalties fall under Sections 10.9.10.4.c: Tires and Wheels; 184.108.40.206.3.c Minimum Safety Penalty Options Note: Improperly installed wheel. Wheel came off vehicle following a pit stop.
The JGR team members have been suspended through July 3, while the BKR crewmembers have been suspended through July 9. The Cup and Truck series operate on different schedules.
Another highly-entertaining edition of Radioactive aired on “NASCAR Race Hub” on Tuesday, featuring plenty of bantering between Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers, their spotters and crew chiefs.
And as usual, fans got to vote via Connect Live during the show on the week’s “Radio Sweetheart” after listening into the rants of the likes of drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ryan Blaney, Danica Patrick and others. Earnhardt even went on his own personal Periscope rant after the race, good-naturedly imploring fans NOT to vote for him once they heard it.
Then there was Derek Kneeland, the spotter for driver Kyle Larson who took note of the likely mental state of Kyle Busch after a tire literally fell off the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota being driven by Busch.
“He’s gotta be losing his (expletive),” Kneeland said after suggesting listening to Busch’s radio at that moment might provide for some pretty good entertainment.
Busch, after all, is the leader in the clubhouse at this point in the season as far as being voted Radio Sweetheart, having earned that distinction four times. Earnhardt has been named it twice, as has Ryan Blaney now that Blaney received the honor this week.
What did Blaney do to earn it? You’ll have to listen in to find out.
Check out the video above to hear the full force of this week’s Radioactive.
Take cover, folks. Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Clint Bowyer has been making the rounds with a bow-and-arrow.
Actually, Bowyer is an avid outdoorsman who can be trusted with the weapon — as he ably demonstrated during an archery exhibition he put on Tuesday at Daytona International Speedway.
Bowyer was joined in the archery exhibition by some media members and the staff from a nearby Bass Pro Shops store.
And when he was done with all that, Bowyer related how he can’t wait to get back to Daytona for the Coke Zero 400 on July 1. In his first season driving the No. 14 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing, Bowyer is still seeking his first win since October of 2012 at Charlotte.
He has three more chances to get one before the Daytona race — at Pocono this weekend (1:30 p.m. ET on FS1), followed by Michigan and Sonoma. But regardless of what happens between now and July 1, Bowyer made it clear that getting to Victory Lane at Daytona could be, well, more than special.
“To win at Daytona is ultra-special,” Bowyer said. “The sense of accomplishment at restrictor-plate tracks is so genuine because so many things have to go right. It’s not only you, but your spotter, your teammates, your manufacturer teammates.”
In just under six minutes, we bring you some of the best elements of Sunday’s AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway — the end of the first half of the 26-race NASCAR Cup regular season — with our popular “Scan All” series.
We start out this week’s edition on NASCAR America with some of the difficulties — and his sometimes frustrated responses — of Dale Earnhardt Jr. He tried everything but struggled for much of the 406-lap race (scheduled for 400 laps, plus six additional laps of overtime).
Then we revisited the embarrassing loss of a left rear wheel on Kyle Busch‘s car after the tire was not attached properly with lug nuts.
Among the most notable — and humorous — exchanges on team radios was that of Clint Bowyer.
First, Bowyer missed a trip to pit road. He responded by telling his crew chief, “Were we supposed to pit there? I was daydreaming. Spotter must have been signing autographs.”
Then, when oil appeared under Bowyer’s car during a pit stop, it ultimately ended his day with a blow engine.
To which Clint deadpanned, “We run like Jack the Bear … blowed up!”
Listen to the best sounds from drivers and crews as Jimmie Johnson fought his way into victory lane at Dover.
NASCAR XFINITY Series regular Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. will make his Monster Energy Cup Series debut this weekend at Pocono Raceway.
Wallace will replace the injured Aric Almirola in the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford Fusion.
Wallace will be the first African-American driver to race in Cup since Bill Lester drove the No. 23 Bill Davis Racing entry at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Michigan International Speedway in 2006.
Roush Fenway Racing also announced that it will suspend the No. 6 XFINITY Series team following this Saturday’s race at Pocono Raceway. Wallace is currently fourth in the XFINITY points standings with seven top fives on the year.
“We are very proud of Bubba and his development at Roush Fenway Racing,” said RFR team president Steve Newmark. “We believe that Bubba has tremendous potential and will continue to excel in NASCAR’s top series. He has been a great representative of our organization both on and off the track and we’ve enjoyed being part of his growth as a driver. Our entire team is excited to see him take the next step in his career and make his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut in the No. 43.”
Roush Fenway and Wallace will continue to evaluate additional potential opportunities for Wallace to run in NXS races in the future, the team also stated in a press release.
“We are excited for Bubba to get this opportunity to drive the iconic No. 43 Fusion for Richard Petty Motorsports,” said Dave Pericak, global director, Ford Performance. “We couldn’t be happier with the progress of Aric Almirola’s recovery and can’t wait to get him back. In the meantime, this is a great opportunity for Bubba to show what he can do at the top level of the sport and we are committed to helping RPM win races.”
Wallace also has four career wins in 44 Camping World Truck Series starts.
Regan Smith, Camping World Truck Series regular and a frequent guest on FS1’s “NASCAR Race Hub,” has subbed for Almirola the past two points races, earning a 22nd-place finish in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte and a 34th-place at Dover.
Almirola continues to recover from a compression fracture in his T5 vertebra after a violent crash in the Go Bowling 400 at Kansas Speedway in early May.
NASCAR competition director Scott Miller says the sanctioning body is investigating a pair of loose wheel issues from the race weekend at Dover International Speedway.
The first incident occurred during Friday’s Camping World Truck Series race, where a tire fell off of Chase Briscoe’s No. 29 Brad Keselowski Racing Ford F-150.
The second happened during the first round of pit stops in Sunday’s Monster Energy Series race involving Kyle Busch and the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team.
Miller discussed the two incidents during Monday’s edition of Sirius XM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive,” stating that intent could be considered when determining what penalties, if at all, should be assessed.
“It’s possible that we will,” Miller said. “But, certainly, we will review everything that we have.”
According to the NASCAR rule book, if a team loses a wheel during the race, it’s an automatic four-race suspension for the crew chief, tire changer and tire carrier for improper installation.
But Miller indicated from what they have noticed so far, the intent of both teams was not to purposely leave pit road with improperly-installed lug nuts.
“From what we’ve seen so far, it wasn’t trying to go back on the racetrack with two lug nuts,” Miller added. “It was obviously human error in both cases. But, like I said, there’s a lot of discussions internally that have to happen on how we’re going to rule on that.”
Miller stated the process of investigating those two incidents will start later Monday afternoon.
Any penalties stemming from the Dover race weekend will likely be handed down by NASCAR Tuesday or Wednesday.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. managed an 11th-place finish despite riding the struggle bus all day at Dover International Speedway.
After taking off 11th in Sunday’s AAA 400 Drive for Autism, Earnhardt was able to climb back up to break even by finishing where he started.
Earnhardt avoided a huge multi-car pile-up on the backstretch coming to the white-flag lap. The incident allowed Earnhardt’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jimmie Johnson, to cruise to his 83rd career victory while tying Cale Yarborough on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series all-time wins list.
“I don’t know what happened at the end there were just cars crashing everywhere,” Earnhardt said. “Our car really wasn’t very good all day.”
The task of clawing his way to a decent result was made even harder after Earnhardt was nailed with a pit-road speeding penalty.
“We ran around 15th to 20th, we got lucky on staying out on a green flag run there and got some track position and I sped on pit road some freaking how,” Earnhardt added.
Between the speeding penalty, which has posed a problem for the No. 88 team this season, and an ill-handling race car, Earnhardt didn’t have an enjoyable time in his second-to-last race at the Monster Mile.
“We have had a lot of speeding penalties this year, so I don’t know what is going on with that, but it was a long day,” Earnhardt said. “Not any fun at all.”
For Kyle Larson, if you’re not first you’re second.
Larson led a race-high 241 laps on Sunday in the AAA 400 Drive for Autism and looked poised to bring home his second win of the season and first win at the Monster Mile.
Once again, Larson didn’t close the deal with a win and instead recorded his fifth second-place finish of the season.
With five laps to go, David Ragan cut a tire and hit hard into the wall bringing out the last thing Larson wanted to see – a caution.
“I needed it to stay green there at the end,” Larson said in his post-race interview. “I was a lot better than Jimmie (Johnson) was. He just did a better job than I did on that final restart.”
As Larson and Jimmie Johnson lined up side-by-side for the final restart, both played games with each other as they headed to the green flag.
Larson waited on the restart but then Johnson got the better jump and won the race into the first turn. As Johnson cleared Larson on the backstretch, Ty Dillon got turned by Ryan Newman which brought out the caution and ended the race as Johnson already crossed the overtime line.
“(Jimmie Johnson) did what he had to do to get the best launch he could,” Larson said. “We were both playing games a little bit. He just took off better than I did. I wasn’t really complaining about the restart. (Johnson) did a good job. He’s a seven-time champion for a reason. He’s got a golden horseshoe somewhere and he’s really good at executing.”
And that’s what Larson admitted he needs to improve, his execution.
“I have get better at (executing),” Larson said. “I had a dominant car all day. We had a couple runs where we got off, maybe some bad tires but we were able to rebound from those struggles. I fought hard all race long. I felt like we were on defense the whole race. Even though I led a lot of laps, I felt like we were on defense the whole time.”
Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson took turns dominating at the Monster Mile on Sunday, but Jimmie Johnson came on strong to win here again.
Truex and his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota captured the first two stages in the AAA 400 Drive for Autism at Dover International Speedway, where Larson led the most laps.
When the race was on the line, though, Johnson passed Larson on an overtime restart to win his record 11th race at the Monster Mile.
Johnson led just seven laps, but he won his 83rd career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, tying Cale Yarborough for sixth overall on the victory list. Larson finished second in his Chip Ganassi Chevrolet ahead of Truex.
“I never thought I would end up here in NASCAR as a kid racing in the dirt out in Southern California. I was a big Cale Yarborough fan,” said Johnson.”
Johnson raced with Yarborough tribute helmet.
“To be here and tie him at 83 wins is amazing,” Johnson said of Yarborough. “We just got the tribute helmet. I wasn’t sure how quickly we’d be, or if we’d be able to go there, and get it done. But, Cale, you’re the man. Thank you for all you have done for our sport.”
Larson led a race-high 241 laps and was disappointed, but philosophical about finishing second.
“Jimmie’s the best of our time, probably the best of all time,” said Larson. “… He did a better job on the restart.”
It was a wild afternoon at Dover.
Toyotas swept the first two rows in qualifying with Kyle Busch’s No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota flanked on Row 1 by Truex in the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Camry.
Once the race got started, Busch immediately jumped into the lead. But on his first pit stop, the left-rear wheel and tire fell off Busch’s car, sending him to the end of the lead lap.
At the end of the first 120-lap stage, Truex was first, winning his seventh different stage at his sixth different track so far this year. Truex led 69 of the first 120 laps in Stage 1.
When the caution came out to end Stage 1, the top 12 cars stayed out, with Larson inheriting the lead when Truex pitted. Larson led most of the stage, but on Lap 212, Truex went underneath him to take the lead and win his eighth stage of the year.
Once Stage 3 began, Larson went back out front, with a fantastic lead battle as he was pursued by Truex and Johnson.
Most of the leaders pitted with about 75 laps to go, when a crash by Regan Smith on Lap 331 changed the outcome of the race. Ty Dillon was one of a handful of drivers who hadn’t stopped for tires and fuel, and he suddenly found himself in the lead for only the third time this season.
With brother Austin having won last week, it seemed for an instant as if lightning might strike twice for the Dillon brothers.
Alas, it was not to be.
With 49 laps to go, Johnson passed Ryan Newman to take second place, as he set sail after Dillon.
Five laps later, Larson went high to wrestle away the second spot from Johnson.
And with 40 laps to go, Larson took the outside line again to pass Dillon for the lead. At that point, it appeared Larson was in prime position.
But then drama. With four laps to go, David Ragan popped a tire to bring out a caution and set up overtime.
On the restart, Johnson got past Larson, but behind him the field crashed hard in a huge multi-car pile-up — sealing the win for Johnson.
The loose lug nut discovered by NASCAR on the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford of driver Kevin Harvick following the Coca-Cola 600 has resulted in a $10,000 fine for crew chief Rodney Childers.
NASCAR’s weekly penalty report came out Wednesday, with the Childers fine the only violation reported this week. There were not driver or owner’s points deducted from the team for the violation, nor will Childers need to serve any suspension.
Harvick finished eighth in the race that was won by Austin Dillon in the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.
Ryan Sieg will drive the No. 83 Toyota for BK Racing this weekend at Dover International Speedway, the team announced Wednesday.
He replaces Corey LaJoie, who will be back in the car next weekend at Pocono Raceway, according to team owner Ron Devine.
This will mark the Cup debut for the 29-year-0ld Sieg, who currently ranks 14th in the XFINITY points standings after a 27th-place finish last Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“I’m so happy to be making my Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut for BK Racing this weekend in Dover,” Sieg said in a statement released by the team. “Ron Devine has given so many drivers an opportunity in the past, and I’m thankful to have that same chance as so many others. I have never driven a Cup car in my life, so I just want to run as many laps as possible and learn as much as I can.”
Devine said he has been keeping an eye on Sieg for a long time, but was quick to add that he is not giving up on LaJoie, either. LaJoie has struggled this season and currently is 34th in the Cup points standings. His best finish is 24th, which he achieved in both the season-opening Daytona 500 and at Bristol.
“I have been watching Ryan race for a number of years and have been really impressed by his driving skills,” Devine said. “I believe that this is the right time to put Ryan in one of our cars to see what he can do,” Devine said. “Corey will be back in the car beginning next week at Pocono, and he is a very important part of BK Racing’s bright future.”
Devine added that if Sieg shows the type of Cup potential that he believes he will, there is a chance BK Racing could add another car to its stable. It ran three cars at times last season, but this year has scaled back to the two cars — the No. 83 driven thus far by LaJoie, and the No. 23 currently driven by Gray Gaulding that also was piloted by Joey Gase for one race.
“If things work out with Ryan for the long run, we may see the No. 93 car return,” Devine said. “A big part of BK Racing has always been seeking out young talent and giving them a chance in the premier racing series, so I’m proud to be able to give Ryan that chance as I did for Corey, Joey Gase, and Gray Gaulding already this season.”
Sieg has six top-10 finishes in 113 career XFINITY starts. He finished ninth in the XFINITY points standings last year.
Austin Dillon is having himself quite a week.
It began when he won the rain-delayed Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and continued Tuesday when he traveled to New York City to ring the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange.
Then, as he waited at the airport for the flight back to North Carolina, he randomly encountered another guy who is having a fine week — Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato. They shot some photos together, showing off their handsome new jewelry.
Check out other social media posts from Dillon’s awesome day in New York City:
It’s been an exciting week for Erik Jones.
On Sunday night, the rookie Furniture Row Racing driver recorded an impressive seventh-place finish in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Jones followed that up by celebrating a special milestone on Tuesday — his 21st birthday — with a little help from primary sponsor 5-Hour Energy.
Amidst his birthday celebration, Jones also showed off a new hairstyle he’s been working on for some time now.
It’s great to see Jones channeling his inner Joe Dirt.
“Yeah, baby! I dodged all of that. That was awesome!”
That was Jimmie Johnson‘s reaction after he narrowly drove his No. 48 Chevrolet through a Lap 20 crash in the Coca-Cola 600.
It’s one of the many highlights from this week’s edition of “Scan All,” which culminates with Austin Dillon winning his first Cup race.
The race was stopped for 1 hour and 40 minutes due to a passing storm that covered the track in rain.
Before the jet dryers and Air Titans took the track, jokes were being made at the expense of former Cup driver Juan Pablo Montoya, who infamously crashed into a jet dryer during the 2012 Daytona 500.
“You think now would be the appropriate time for a jet dryer joke?” asked Clint Bowyer‘s crew chief, Mike Bugarewicz. “How many cars does it take to take out a jet dryer? Just Juan.”
During the race, the crew chief for Jimmie Johnson and Erik Jones grew increasingly irritated with how the other team’s drivers positioned their cars in the adjoining pit stalls.
“The ****ing crew chief on the 77, I cannot wait to pay him back for this ****,” Chad Knaus said.
“He’s got my blood pressure up, you’re going to have to calm me down,” Jones’ crew chief, Chris Gayle said.
One of the main storylines this week has been Kyle Busch’s very brief post-race press conference after he finished second. His frustration didn’t begin there.
As the checkered flag waved over the race, Busch yelled and cursed in anger over once again not winning a points race at Charlotte.
Watch the video for more scanner highlights from the Coca-Cola 600.
Tony Stewart enjoyed an extremely special Memorial Day weekend in his home state of Indiana.
The Rushville native first competed in the Little 500, a 410 non-winged sprint car event held the night before the Indianapolis 500.
Stewart finished third in the race held at Anderson Speedway, a quarter-mile asphalt oval located about an hour northeast of Indy.
The three-time NASCAR champion was also joined by Leonard Wood, co-founder of the famed Wood Brothers Racing.
Smoke’s weekend was then capped off by hanging out at the Indy 500, where he drove AJ Foyt’s historic Bowes Seal Fast Watson roadster, which won the iconic race in 1961.
On top of that, his Stewart-Haas Racing team had three drivers — Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer — in the top 15 in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Check out photos Stewart shared from his fun-filled weekend.
CONCORD, N.C. — As the third-place finisher in last Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, Martin Truex Jr. did not have to say a whole lot to top the act that preceded him in the media center after the race.
He took the podium after second-place finisher Kyle Busch uttered one sentence, one more word, dropped the mic and left the building.
Despite the fact that he led a race-high 233 laps and did not win, either, Truex was more accommodating and philosophical about coming out on the wrong end of a fuel-mileage gambit that was won by first-time race winner Austin Dillon.
Dillon led only the last two laps, taking the point when then-leader Jimmie Johnson ran dry on fuel. Dillon then ran out of gas himself in his No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet right after taking the checkered flag.
Truex had plenty of gas left in his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toytoa. Like Busch, he simply ran out of time to run Dillon down.
“I guess it depends how you look at it. It’s kind of bittersweet,” Truex said. “… We had a shot at it again. That’s the third year in a row we led the most laps (in the 600). Two out of three he we lost it on fuel mileage. That’s tough to swallow.
“But I can’t say enough about my team, what they continue to do. So I’m really proud of them.”
Truex was the defending race winner coming in, having dominated the 2016 Coca-Cola 600 by leading 392 of 400 laps and the most miles of any driver in any race in NASCAR history. The year before that, he led 131 but finished fifth.
That’s 756 laps led – or 1,134 miles – for Truex over the last three Coca-Cola 600s. But he has just one win to show for it.
Again, though, he tried to be philosophical about it. The fact that he already has two wins this season – at Las Vegas and Kansas – helps because he’s already locked into the playoffs and he knows his cars are consistently fast.
“It stinks to come up on the short end of fuel mileage, but we’ve been on this side of it plenty of times,” Truex said. “Sometimes it just doesn’t go your way.
“All in all, it was a great night. We have fast cars, we’ll keep coming back with them, and hopefully get some more wins.”
Austin Dillon wasn’t able to perform a burnout after winning his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race in the Coca-Cola 600.
Dillon ran out of fuel while crossing the finish line in Sunday night’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, which didn’t leave anything in the tank to smoke it up for the crowd and his No. 3 Richard Childress Racing team.
But that didn’t stop Dillon from finding an interesting place to burn the tires down anyway.
Watch Dillon tear it up in a slick gold Chevrolet Camaro — in his barn of all places.
Kyle Busch wasn’t in a great mood after finishing second in Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch’s frustration was understandable; the Toyotas of Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row Racing dominated the marathon race, but Austin Dillon won by gambling on fuel mileage, leading only the final two laps to win over Busch and Martin Truex Jr.
That prompted an interesting discussion on Twitter involving long-time Busch rival Brad Keselowski and Andy Graves, the group vice president, technical director at TRD, U.S.A., Toyota’s racing arm.
Wow. How about this for a holiday weekend Friday afternoon shocker? Stewart-Haas Racing has dropped its $31 million lawsuit against Nature’s Bakery and the Reno, Nevada-based fig bar sponsor will again have its logos on the team’s cars.
“Stewart-Haas Racing has reached an equitable agreement with Nature’s Bakery that will see the maker of on-the-go snacks serve as a primary sponsor for four Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races split between drivers Danica Patrick and Clint Bowyer,” the team said in a press release issued Friday afternoon.
“The races where Nature’s Bakery will adorn Patrick’s No. 10 Ford Fusion and Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford Fusion will be announced at a later date.”
All lawsuits between Stewart-Haas Racing and Nature’s Bakery have been dropped.
“It’s gratifying to see a difficult situation get resolved in a professional manner that suits all parties,” said Brett Frood, President, Stewart-Haas Racing. “Together, we worked diligently to find an equitable solution to our collective challenges.”
“I am a longtime motorsports fan and, particularly, a fan of NASCAR,” said Dave Marson, founder of Nature’s Bakery. “Our partnership with Stewart-Haas Racing began with direct, open conversations and that foundation allowed us to reach this agreement.”
SHR sued Nature’s Bakery for $31 million in February, accusing the company of refusing to pay its bills to sponsor Patrick.
“Nature’s Bakery is in material breach of its contract with Stewart-Haas Racing,” the team said then. “It is an unfortunate situation, as the team has delivered on all aspects of its contract and was prepared to do so again in 2017. Ultimately, this is a situation that will be resolved in a court of law.”
But after mediation, the two parties were able to reach agreement on a settlement, so they will work together again.
Sometimes, a story just flat out needs to be told. This is one of those times.
On Wednesday afternoon in Charlotte, more than 50 members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Panel gathered to select the five individuals who would be inducted into the hall’s Class of 2018.
The panel members consist of everyone from NASCAR CEO Brian France to track operators, former racers, representatives of the three automakers in NASCAR, broadcast partners and journalists. Each of the panel members gets a single vote and they all count the same.
The process goes like this: For about 2 hours of so, the floor is open for any member of the Voting Panel to advocate on behalf of any of the 20 Hall of Fame nominees. Basically, any of us on the panel — and I am one of the members — can talk about why we think one or more individuals belong in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
The discussions occasionally become contentious and often you’ll see members lobby for the same candidate year after year. No one is rushed or hurried, and anyone who wants to speak can.
The main rules are this: No one is allowed to post to social media during the discussion and everything said in that room remains in the room. When you think about it, that’s really the only way to make certain people feel safe to speak their minds.
That said, on Wednesday, Wood Brothers Racing co-owner Eddie Wood gave a stirring speech on behalf of Robert Yates, who wound up being elected along with Red Byron, Ray Evernham, Ken Squier and Ron Hornaday Jr.
So impressive was Eddie’s speech that I asked him after the event was over if he’d share some thoughts on Robert with me. He agreed.
Eddie and his brother Len recently went up to visit Robert at his farm in Wilkes County, N.C., not far from where Junior Johnson’s race team used to be based.
Eddie said he and Len didn’t know what to say since Yates was battling liver cancer and was obviously not in good health. Still, the three had a good visit.
“Given what he’s going through, you didn’t know what to say when you got there,” said Wood. “You didn’t know how he was going to be. You just didn’t know.
“But when we got there, he was Robert. He was good. He just was so upbeat. He was just like the last the last time we saw him. He was Robert.”
And so after the visit, Wood was inspired to speak on Robert’s behalf. What follows are some of the things he said during his speech, which he reiterated to me the following day after Cup practice at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“If you look at him from the 1960s forward, he did every job in this garage except drive,” Wood said of Yates. “From driving the truck — everything. Working on the car, pit stops. He’d jack the car, he gassed the car, all of that.”
More than that, though, Wood was impressed with how Yates was dealing with his cancer.
“It reminded me of years ago when NASCAR would make a rule change,” said Wood. “You could race on Sunday, and on Monday or Tuesday, there could be a rule change. It could be something as simple as cutting your spoiler or raising the height of your car. If the Fords were doing really well, they might raise ‘em up half an inch, just trying to keep the playing field level.
“But in those days, you didn’t have all the tools to go work on your car,” said Wood. “And back then, the quickest way to get your performance back after a rule change was to get more horsepower.”
And that’s where Yates, one of the sport’s best engine builders in history came in.
“Robert would go in his shop and lock the door and he would have Doug (his son) and a couple of others in there with him,” said Wood. “But nobody left until they came up with more power. They may be in there a day. They may be in there three days.
“But he stayed in there until he got it done,” said Wood. “When he’d come out of there, he might have 15 or 20 more horsepower. But he fixed it. And that’s what I see in him now battling cancer.”
Wood said Yates has not backed down from the fight.
“This sickness he’s had has been thrown at him, blindsided him,” said Wood. “He’s going to fix it. He’s going to work through it. He talked about his treatments. He tried one thing and he wasn’t sure that was going to work, so he had a new treatment he was working on.
“He was very upbeat about it and like, ‘I’m going to beat it. I’m going to fix it.’ Just like he went and found horsepower when there was a rules change. His attitude was so positive and upbeat.”
That kind of strength is one of many reasons Yates is going into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. We can hope he his successful in his latest battle.
Racers are a close-knit community, and when there’s a loss in that community, they close ranks.
Such is the case this week after the death of former Moto GP champion Nicky Hayden, who died earlier this week after being hit by a car while bicycling in Italy.
Hayden, known as the “Kentucky Kid,” was popular with fans and fellow racers alike and his loss was felt deeply.
To honor Hayden’s memory seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson organized a 69-mile bicycle ride in Charlotte Friday morning, the No. 69 being Hayden’s number.
It was a fitting and classy way to pay tribute to a fallen comrade.
The abrupt closure of Red Horse Racing from the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has spurred a lot of discussion about what changes need to be made for the benefit of the sport.
Kevin Harvick doesn’t shy away from comments, especially with his new “Happy Hour” radio show on SiriusXM NASCAR.
After making comments about the Truck Series schedule going back to its grassroots nature on the latest episode, Harvick fielded questions after winning the pole for the Coca-Cola 600 (Sunday, 5:30 p.m. ET on FOX) at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“I can’t walk anywhere and not have somebody talk to me about the Truck Series schedule,” Harvick said. “I think it’s something that a lot of people want to say and haven’t said, but I think it’s definitely time to look at the grassroots side of things and I think the Truck Series is a grassroots division.”
Harvick went beyond general comments and gave examples for how to improve the Truck Series schedule.
“If you could just for example take it somewhere like Nashville Speedway and pair it up with the All-American 400 and put the All-American 400 in Nashville back on the map with a Truck Series race with some SAFER barriers, get the city of Nashville involved and that’s just one race,” Harvick said. “I think it would be very interesting and I feel like that regionally is a big touring race. You go up to Oxford, Maine, but getting the TV to these cars and these local racers and these people and the enthusiasm that it brings to a local market, that’s what the Truck Series does.
“When you look at Eldora and you look at the road race in Canada, you look at these one-off events and every one of them are well attended, every one of them are exciting and well attended.”
Harvick’s plan not only takes the Truck Series to more exciting races for fans but he pairs the idea with local series being at the tracks to truly embrace the grassroots nature of NASCAR.
If NASCAR put the lower tiers of racing on television alongside the Truck Series, then the door is open for fans to have more knowledge about drivers who are climbing their way through the ranks.
“It would be interesting to revive the Copper Classic and start the season with the Trucks out there and see the sprint cars show back up and TV is gonna be there to cover it, so now you can film all these races and put these guys on TV,” Harvick said. “All of a sudden there’s TV there and they can get better sponsorship, so there’s a lot of things that you could do and, like you say, it has to be something that everybody buys into that is worried about making money.”
The issue with broadcasting these lower series comes down to the television money and how contracts are negotiated.
One of the biggest moves would have to come from tracks that pair Truck Series races with the same weekend as Monster Energy Series events.
“TV money is still how everyone survives,” Harvick said. “That’s the reason a lot of these race tracks take these Truck races now because the TV money went up, so there’s a reason that they want to keep them. But there are ways to make all of this work. Everybody doesn’t need to have their hand out, they need to be thinking from the bottom up and how do we make this better.”
One of the best examples for the Truck Series performing well at a standalone event is when they head to his Stewart-Haas Racing boss, Tony Stewart’s track, Eldora Speedway.
“We need events and I think it’s a great way to reinvest from the bottom up in different facilities and you could sit here and name a bunch of them,” Harvick said. “What better way to show them you care than by putting soft walls up at the race track somehow and some way to get the cities involved and the race track and work on getting those sanctioning fees down and get them to places where they can knock the fenders off of each other and put on a great show, much like they do at Eldora. I mean, it’s got 20-some thousand people there every time we show up and everybody loves watching on a Wednesday night.”
None of these proposals directly offer a plan to cut down on team cost for the Truck Series but seem to focus on a bigger picture move to revitalize the health of the sport.
With so much locked in place with the schedule through the next several years, it might be awhile before there’s an opportunity to make these changes.
Thursday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Kevin Harvick put the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Fusion on the pole for Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (5:30 p.m. ET, FOX).
Here’s what the racers had to say on social media following qualifying for the longest race on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule.
CONCORD, N.C. — The cream always seems to rise to the top in the biggest races, and such was the case in qualifying for Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where Kevin Harvick took his third pole of the season.
Harvick posted a fast lap of 193.424 miles per hour in his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford during the third and final round, good enough to claim the top qualifying spot and the crucial No. 1 pit stall that goes with it.
The pole was Harvick’s 20th in 586 career starts. And he said his car was challenging to drive.
“The cars in qualifying were a lot looser than they were in practice and just based on past experience here it was a handful through (Turns) 1 and 2,” said Harvick. “I just about lost it the first run, but the car was so good in three and four I didn’t want to over-adjust on it.”
Starting on the outside of Row 1 for the longest race on the NASCAR schedule will be Kyle Busch, last week’s winner of the Monster Energy All-Star Race. Busch wheeled his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to a qualifying lap of 192.513 mph.
“We’ve got performance right now, so we just got to put it all together,” said Busch, who like Harvick is looking for his first victory of the season. “It’s a long, long day. Starting up front doesn’t necessarily mean anything right now.”
Row 2 will consist of Chase Elliott’s Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and Busch’s teammate, Matt Kenseth. Erik Jones completed the top five in the first of the Furniture Row Racing Toyotas.
In his last Coca-Cola 600, Dale Earnhardt Jr. qualified 19th. Earnhardt’s teammate, seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson was 14th.
“They were a lot different than what we anticipated,” said Johnson. “So, we just didn’t get the balance right from practice to Q (qualifying). We thought we had a good idea of what to go on based on last week and it just didn’t repeat for us like we thought, so we just missed it a little bit there.”
As has been the case on several occasions this year, pre-qualifying inspection was again an issue for some teams. The biggest name to miss qualifying was points leader Kyle Larson, who didn’t get to make an attempt because his Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet never made it through tech.
The track is dark tomorrow, but there will be two practices on Saturday, the first at 9 a.m. ET and the second at 11:30 a.m. Both practices will be televised live on FS1.
VHT compound has become a familiar term with NASCAR fans as the sticky substance has become a mainstay on the lower groove at Bristol Motor Speedway in recent years.
After an All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway that lacked much passing, the compound has been added to the 1.5-mile surface for the Coca-Cola 600 (Sunday, 5:30 p.m. ET on FOX).
In the opening practice on Thursday at Charlotte, drivers got their first test of the substance at a speedway. Although, it was a limited one as most drivers ran mock qualifying attempts for the hour and a half session.
“I got into a little bit there in Turns 3 and 4 coming to the green for qualifying runs,” Kyle Busch said of the VHT compound. “The track was really light to begin with. They run the tire dragon around here and it doesn’t give much to the track, maybe they need to add more pressure. The cars were starting to put the rubber down as practice progressed. You get outside of that black and it’s pretty slick. I’m not sure we can groom (the VHT) in here in one weekend.”
One of the biggest issues with the substance is that it needs heat to work and when it’s out of the preferred line, drivers have to simply trust that it’ll hold for them.
“You don’t know how that substance they use is going to combine with asphalt,” Ryan Blaney said. “I’m curious to see how that does and its very heat-activated. At Bristol, we’re going to be running the bottom regardless. That’s why it worked so well on the bottom there and here I’m wondering what it’s gonna be like when we’re running 200 miles an hour into the top lane and hoping it’s hot enough to stick. That’s gonna be a little sketchy at first, but, like I said before, I thought NASCAR had to make a move on that side of it to get us off the bottom of the race track or at least give you options.”
The addition of options to make racing better is always a move in the right direction for NASCAR and according to Kurt Busch, there weren’t many other options.
“You have (extra grip) on entry but you lose it on the apex,” Kurt Busch said. “We go back to tracks and VHT is added and you say ‘make better tires’ but there’s nothing wrong with the tires. It turns into drag racing. You have to warm it up and put heat into it. It makes it inconsistent if you’re running through it and then not running through it.”
The opening practice session didn’t provide much additional information on how it’ll come in at night with more cars on track so it’s a waiting game for everyone on how it’ll work.
“We’ll find out. It’s kind of unchartered waters, to be honest with you. Bristol is a lot different, a lot shorter race track, we’re not going as fast, a concrete race track,” Blaney said. “Like I said, we saw it in the All-Star Race where it was just bottom-feeding. This will hopefully help it out, but I don’t know much about it.”
CONCORD, N.C. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. continues to search for answers in this, his final Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.
But they continue to be elusive as Earnhardt prepares for his last Coca-Cola 600 this Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway (5:30 p.m. ET on FOX).
In Thursday’s lone Cup practice at the 1.5-mile track, the best Earnhardt could manage in his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet was a top lap of 190.389 miles per hour that ranked 22nd fastest out of the 40-car field.
The really frustrating part of it for Earnhardt was that he ran the same setup as Hendrick teammate Jimmie Johnson, who was second-fastest at 192.472 mph.
“We totally eighty-sixed all that stuff we ran last week and we put in Jimmie’s set-up just like him,” said Earnhardt, who announced earlier this year that this will be his final Cup season. “I was just asking (crew chief) Greg (Ives) how are we just like him if he ran a (nearly 28-second) flat (lap) and we ran a (28.363) in practice?”
Earnhardt did say he appreciates all the help the No. 48 team of seven-time and defending Cup champion Johnson, and Johnson’s crew chief Chad Knaus, have attempted to give Earnhardt and his team.
“Greg and Chad got real close this week and me and Jimmie have been in communication,” Earnhardt said. “Jimmie has come by the car a couple of times in practice already looking at notes and printing out our driver traces and trying to figure out whatever we can do to help me.
“One of the things about Jimmie that I’ve always thought was pretty cool was he was always open to looking at other drivers’ traces and adjusting how he drives. If he sees a guy go through the corner who does something different with the gas or the brake, he will try it. And he encourages me or any other teammate to do the same thing.”
In other words, there are little adjustments and techniques to Johnson’s driving style that are always evolving. And he has encouraged Earnhardt to remain open to all those possibilities as the No. 88 team tries to turn around its thus-far disappointing season.
Through the first 11 points races, Earnhardt has only one top-10 finish. He sits 24th in the current point standings — and he was horrible in last Saturday night’s Monster Energy All-Star Race at Charlotte, finishing next-to-last in the 20-car field.
Johnson finished third in the All-Star Race after contending for the win.
“(Johnson) comes over with these printouts and says, ‘This is what I’m doing with the gas and this is what you’re doing and this is where the time is getting loose and maybe try this and that and the other.’ “ Earnhardt said. “He is a super teammate. I’m lucky to be able to work in the same shop with him. He has certainly been an influence on my success and my enjoyment in the sport.
“Yeah, we are leaning on them pretty hard this weekend. Considering how we ran and how they ran last weekend at the All-Star Race, we are leaning on them pretty hard.”
For the most part, the subject of money isn’t discussed openly much in NASCAR anymore, so when a team owner throws out a real number, ears perk up.
Such was the case Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway when 2015 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion driver Kyle Busch was asked about the economic health of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, where Busch is the team owner for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
Busch was blunt about the economics of owning a truck team when asked about Red Horse Racing closing its doors earlier this week.
“Our cost is 3.2. That’s how much it takes to run a full operation of a truck team, and that number should be around 2,” said Busch. And by 3.2 he meant $3.2 million to field one competitive truck for one season.
Busch said he pays out of his own pocket to keep his Toyota Tundras on track.
“I know that I put money in myself,” said Busch. “You know, I wouldn’t say that the model is working for us. I just think that we’re content with the amount of money that we are spending. That makes it worth our while.”
According to Busch, discussions are ongoing to come up with cheaper engines and bodies for the truck teams. “We’re only hitting it about a half a million (dollars) by doing that,” he said. “Your biggest expense is your people, and that’s where it all comes from.”
Practice for the longest race on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule began Thursday afternoon with an 85-minute session in advance of Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (5:30 p.m. ET, FOX).
And when it was all said and done, it was a strong showing for the Toyota contingent, led by Erik Jones at 192.713 miles per hour. Jones’ speed was the best of practice.
Second fast was seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, who turned a best lap of 192.472 mph in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. Cup series points leader Kyle Larson was third at 192.465 mph in the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.
Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick completed the top five.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s struggles continued, as he was just 22nd in practice for his final Coca-Cola 600.
Two drivers had minor wall bangers in the session, Clint Bowyer about halfway through practice and Larson with less than 10 minutes left.
Qualifying is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. ET tonight, with coverage on FS1.
The track is dark tomorrow, but there will be two practices on Saturday, the first at 9 a.m. and the second at 11:30 a.m.
Check out the full practice results below.
A reader sent me a message this morning, wondering how it was that Ron Hornaday Jr. was voted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2018 ahead of Alan Kulwicki.
The short answer is simple: Hornaday absolutely belongs. It’s the NASCAR Hall of Fame, not the Monster Energy Cup Series Hall of Fame.
The Hall already has NASCAR XFINITY and Modified Series racers in and given that Hornaday is the greatest NASCAR Camping Truck Series driver of all-time, he needs to be in the Hall, too.