Jimmie Johnson wins at Charlotte; five Chase drivers finish 30th or worse

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Jimmie Johnson won Sunday’s rescheduled Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, his third victory this season.

The six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion captured his eighth career win at the 1.5-mile oval and his 78th career victory in NASCAR’s premier series.

Johnson will advance to the Round of 8 for the first time since the elimination-style format debuted in 2014.

But Johnson’s victory, which ended a career-long 24 race winless drought, was overshadowed by problems for Chase drivers Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Austin Dillon, Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin.

MORE: Click here for full results of Sunday’s Bank of America 500

MORE: Click here to see the Sprint Cup points after Charlotte 

Harvick and Logano both went out on Lap 152. Harvick had an apparent oil pressure problem, and Logano hit the wall twice after tire issues. Harvick’s day was done, placing 38th, but Logano returned and finished 36th.

Dillon’s trouble happened on a Lap 260 restart when he was tapped from behind by Martin Truex Jr., triggering a multicar crash that included six Chase drivers – half of the remaining playoff field: Dillon, Elliott, Truex, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards.

“It sucks,” Dillon said.“We’ll have to work hard the next two weeks to get the points back. I felt like I got into third gear pretty clean. The next thing, I felt contact, and I was spinning through the grass.”

Truex apologized for “pushing too hard” and wrecking Dillon.

HOW JIMMIE JOHNSON WON: The six-time champion had one of the strongest cars in the field. Johnson took the lead from Matt Kenseth on Lap 317 and held on for the final 18 laps to take his third win of the season. Johnson also led a race-high 155 laps.

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD DAY: Matt Kenseth started last (40th) due to unapproved adjustments to his car, and finished second. If Kenseth had a better restart on Lap 317, he may have had a chance to hold off Johnson, but could not catch the eventual winner.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Several Chase drivers started out the Round of 12 with significant issues, most notably Kevin Harvick (38th), Joey Logano (36th), Chase Elliott (33rd), Austin Dillon (32nd) and Denny Hamlin (30th). … Alex Bowman had a tire issue on Lap 62 that led to a wreck and collected Casey Mears in the process. Bowman placed 39th.

NOTABLE: Five Chase drivers finished 30th or worse, the worst single-day showing of playoff contestants since Kansas in 2007. … Truex had a strong car and was near the front for much of the race before he suffered clutch issues on the final pit stop. Truex finished 13th.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We’re not out by any means. … Things happen. It’s part of racing, but we’re not out.” – Chase driver Joey Logano after tire issues led to a 36th-place finish in the first of three Round of 12 races in the Chase.

WHAT’S NEXT: Hollywood Casino 400, Sunday, Oct. 16 (2:15 p.m. ET) at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas.

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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. While still in the rumor stage, there’s a lot of talk that IMS may change the race to something akin to its Verizon IndyCar Series Indy Grand Prix race in mid-May, where half the race is run on the infield road course and the other half on the traditional racetrack surface.

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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