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Matt Kenseth laments ‘light bulb’ not going off to avoid last-lap crash

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — If only the “light bulb,’’ as Matt Kenseth said, would have come on at the end of his qualifying race Thursday night at Daytona International Speedway.

Instead, Kenseth kept racing and was collected in a last-lap crash that will cost him his front row starting spot in Sunday’s Daytona 500.

His trouble started a few laps earlier.

Kenseth, who had been running second, dropped down when Jimmie Johnson tried to go below him with six laps left. Cars passed Kenseth and Johnson on the outside and trapped both behind lapped cars. Both fell out of the top five.

“They got outside of me before I knew what happened,’’ Kenseth said. “I was basically stuck in the middle, and Jimmie was on the bottom, and we caught those lapped cars. We were just stalled out in bad air. That would have been a real great time for the light bulb to come on and call it a day.’’

Instead, Kenseth kept racing and didn’t fall back far enough. He was  eighth on the final lap. Ahead, Jamie McMurray shot up the track in second place trying to block Johnson.

“I had stalled out right when I got to (Busch), and I didn’t think (Johnson) had much of a run either,’’ McMurray said. “It felt like our momentum was about the same. I saw the replay and I still don’t know if he was up to my rear bumper or if it was the air that made his car turn. I’m just not sure.”

The result was that Johnson turned into the wall, triggering a six-car accident that sends Johnson, Kenseth, Martin Truex Jr. and A.J. Allmendinger to backup cars for Sunday’s Daytona 500.

“Jamie tried to put a move on (Busch) and left the bottom in a hurry to come up and block my run,’’ Johnson said. “I could see with his aggression how fast he was coming up and that our line was going to take me into the wall. I tried to check up and get out of there and it just didn’t work out and it took me into the outside wall a little bit and turned me down across the field. Just a block that didn’t turn out.’’

Johnson wasn’t critical of McMurray’s move, though.

“Man, we’re racing,’’ Johnson said. “They’re split-second decisions.’’

One that caused Kenseth’s car to suffer extensive damage and not be usable for the Sunday’s season-opening race.

“I just saw (Johnson) going across the race track,’’ Kenseth said. “I was in the process of trying to get out of there. I did a poor job of that, and I got ran over from behind.’’

Ty Dillon was behind Kenseth when the accident started.

“He slammed on brakes so quick I had no time to react,’’ Dillon said.

Now, Kenseth will start at the back of the 40-car field.

“I don’t know if starting in the back is as big of a deal as losing your (primary) car,’’ Kenseth said. “In 500 miles if you can’t get to the front in 3 1/2 or 4 hours, you have an issue.’’

My Home Tracks: New Mexico’s the Land of Enchantment and home of Cardinal Speedway

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The state of New Mexico is known more for IndyCar racing, with the Unser family being the state’s favorite sons.

Al Unser won four Indianapolis 500s, brother Bobby three and Al’s son Al Jr. a two-time winner (this weekend’s 500 marks the 25th anniversary of Little Al’s second 500 triumph).

But there’s a strong grassroots racing scene in the Land of Enchantment, particularly in the far southeast corner of the state at Cardinal Speedway, a half-mile dirt track in the little town of Eunice.

NASCAR America continues its My Home Track series of 50 states in 50 shows.

Wednesday, we visit New York state.

2018 NASCAR schedule changes: EVP Steve O’Donnell breaks it down (video)

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On Tuesday’s edition of NASCAR America, NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell joined us to discuss the NASCAR Cup schedule changes in 2018, including running a road race at Charlotte and having Indianapolis be the final race before the playoffs.

“I’m real excited about these changes,” said O’Donnell, who cited unprecedented cooperation between NASCAR, its teams, drivers and sponsors to reach agreement on the schedule changes.

Among the key changes: Las Vegas will kick off the 10-race playoffs in 2018 (Chicagoland Speedway, which will have hosted the last seven playoff openers, will return to its more traditional race date in early July/late June and serve as a run-up to the Coke Zero 400 in Daytona.

Several other changes include:

  • The fall playoff race at Charlotte will move up a couple weeks in the schedule and also incorporate competition on both the infield road course and part of the speedway itself.
  • After 14 years as the deciding race to qualify for the NASCAR Cup playoffs, Richmond International Raceway will now become the second race of the playoffs.
  • Indianapolis Motor Speedway will see it’s Brickyard 400 go from late July to become the final qualifying race for the playoffs in early September.

Catch up on all the changes in the above video.

Tony Stewart pulled over by state trooper, but it’s not for speeding

Photo courtesy Damein Cunningham Twitter account
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Retired NASCAR Cup driver and team co-owner Tony Stewart was stopped by an Illinois State Trooper over the weekend near DeKalb, Ill., about 90 minutes west of Chicago.

But before you think Stewart was stopped for speeding by Trooper Damein Cunningham, he wasn’t.

Rather, Cunningham pulled Stewart over for improper lane usage, although exactly what the infraction was is unclear.

After getting a verbal warning, Stewart gladly posed with Cunningham for a selfie, which the trooper promptly tweeted out.

“Just pulled over NASCAR LEGEND Tony Stewart on I-88 in DeKalb, IL, what you think I got him for? #NASCAR #ISP”

But according to the Chicago Tribune, Cunningham’s bosses apparently didn’t have a sense of humor about the incident or realize the good PR it meant for the Illinois State Police.

That, or they’re not Stewart or NASCAR fans. They ordered Cunningham to delete the tweet, which he did.

It’s unclear what Stewart, who was stopped on his 46th birthday, was doing in the Land of Lincoln.

But his luck went from bad to worse a few hours later. According to USA Today, Stewart and others were stuck in an elevator in a Madison, Wisconsin hotel for about 20 minutes before being rescued by firefighters.

We can just imagine what the elevator riders talked about while trapped.

How much do you want to bet Stewart said, “Man, do I have a story about a cop that I have to tell you.”

Cunningham then posted another tweet on Sunday after attending church services.

 

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All-Star Race will remain at Charlotte in 2018

Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images
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NASCAR confirmed that the All-Star Race will be held again at Charlotte Motor Speedway despite more of a push from competitors and others to move the event.

Criticism was raised after last weekend’s 70-lap event featured only three lead changes. Kyle Busch took the lead on the restart to begin the final 10-lap stage and went on to win. It marked the fourth time in the last five years the All-Star winner led every lap in the final stage. In 12 All-Star Races at Charlotte since the track was repaved, there have been two lead changes in the final five laps.

Jim Cassidy, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations, was clear in a call with reporters Tuesday that the All-Star Race is set for Charlotte.

“We’ve finished our discussions for ’18,” he said. ” We’ll begin looking at ’19 and beyond in the near future.”

The All-Star Race debuted at Charlotte in 1985, moved to Atlanta in 1986 and returned to Charlotte the following year. It has been held at Charlotte ever since.

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