Joey Logano wins at Phoenix, advances to Championship 4 along with Kyle Busch

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Joey Logano and Kyle Busch were both winners in Sunday’s Can-Am 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

Logano won his 17th career Sprint Cup race while Busch finished second, advancing both drivers into the Ford EcoBoost 400 championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Logano will be seeking his first Sprint Cup championship, while Busch will be going for his second consecutive title.

Also in the Championship 4 will be Jimmie Johnson, who is seeking his seventh Sprint Cup crown — which would tie him with NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt — as well Carl Edwards. Edwards, like Logano, will be seeking his first championship.

“I’ve never felt this good about a win before,” Logano said of his first career Sprint Cup win at Phoenix. “There was so much on the line and everyone brings their A-game when it comes to winning championships and this team did it. Man, this feels so good.

“I had a good restart there at the end and holding off Kyle (Busch) to try to get this thing into Miami. We’re racing for a championship now. We did exactly what we had to do. We’ve got to go to Homestead and do the same thing. I couldn’t be more proud of this team.”

Kyle Larson finished third followed by Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch.

MORE: Statistics and results from Phoenix

MORE: Sprint Cup point standings after Phoenix

Just when it appeared that Matt Kenseth would win the race on Lap 318, he made contact with Alex Bowman, causing Kenseth to spin into the wall and see his championship hope come to an abrupt end.

Bowman had been tapped from behind by Kyle Busch, which caused Bowman’s car to wiggle, but it appeared Kenseth came down too soon in front of Bowman and the duo made contact.

Logano was scored as the leader at the previous scoring loop when the caution came out and would hold on during the ensuing restart.

Harvick, who won the first Sprint Cup championship under the new elimination format in 2014 and also reached the final round last season, fell short of his third consecutive appearance in the final round.

“That’s all you can ask, to go down swinging and that’s what we did,” Harvick told NBCSN.

Also falling short of reaching the championship round were Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch. As a result, only two of the four Joe Gibbs Racing drivers will be in the final round, while Stewart-Haas Racing will have no representatives.

Sunday’s race was scheduled for 312 laps, but due to a caution on Lap 311 when Michael McDowell crashed, as well as Kenseth’s wreck on Lap 318, the event went an extra 12 laps of overtime for a total of 324 laps.

Substituting for the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr., pole-sitter Alex Bowman led the first 92 laps. That was quite a contrast as Bowman had led a total of just nine laps overall in his first 79 Sprint Cup career starts. Bowman eventually led a race-high 194 laps in the race.

After being at the front of the field from the green flag, Bowman finally yielded the lead on Lap 93 to Logano. Johnson then took the lead on Lap 120, Bowman regained it for one lap on Lap 133, and then Logano went back ahead when he beat all other cars off pit road during caution on Lap 134.

HOW LOGANO WON: When Matt Kenseth spun on Lap 318, Logano was declared the leader. Logano then held on through the ensuing restart on Lap 323 all the way to the checkered flag to reach the Championship 4 round for the second time in three years.

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE? Runner-up Kyle Busch did what he needed to do to hold off Kevin Harvick and advance to defend last year’s championship. Also, kudos to Alex Bowman for his effort and Kyle Larson for their strong runs.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE? Kenseth saw his championship bid go up in smoke with his wreck on Lap 316. He finished 20th … Austin Dillon finished 39th, while Martin Truex Jr. finished last.

NOTABLE: Greg Biffle finished 16th in his 500th consecutive Sprint Cup race … Canadian driver D.J. Kennington finished 35th in his first career Sprint Cup race … Tony Stewart finished 15th in the second-to-last race of his Sprint Cup career.

QUOTE OF THE DAY No. 1: “I’m speechless right now.  I feel like I just won the Daytona 500 again. What a special day.” — Race winner Joey Logano.

QUOTE OF THE DAY No. 2: “We have to put our arms around Matt and let him know how much we care for him.” – Team owner Joe Gibbs on Matt Kenseth’s late wreck that eliminated him from the last round of the Chase.

WHAT’S NEXT: The season championship will be decided Sunday, Nov. 20, at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Green flag is slated to drop shortly after 2:30 pm ET.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Long: Hall of Fame moment is special for father and son

Photo by Dustin Long
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CHARLOTTE — Sleep has not come easy for Doug Yates in some time.

It has only gotten worse lately.

He can’t stop thinking of his father, Robert, who battles liver cancer. Robert has undergone chemotherapy, but at one point doctors said they weren’t sure what how to treat the 74-year-old former NASCAR team owner and engine builder who was selected to the 2018 Hall of Fame Class on Wednesday.

That helpless feeling of not solving a problem counters what Robert and Doug have done all their lives. If there was an issue with an engine, they worked harder and longer until they fixed the matter.

This they can’t.

While Robert Yates undergoes experimental treatments, Doug is there to help take care of his father. There are bad days, Doug says, wincing.

“What I see is a man who is broken down and built back up because he is watching his father,’’ said Whitney Yates, Doug’s wife. “Sometimes (Robert) is so sick he can’t do anything and Doug is there.’’

They are more than father and son. They share a treasured relationship not every boy and his dad experiences, their bonds woven early and strengthened with each day together.

Doug fondly recalls sleeping on a cot in a race shop when he was about 5 years old while his father worked on an engine through the night. They traveled to races together. Doug reminisces of a trip to Richmond where his father, tired from work, told his son, then 12, to take the wheel while he slept. Yet, when a deer ran across their path, it was Robert who asked his son if he saw that.

They often went to the race shop together. Although family, Robert was still the boss. He would be hard on his son at times, but Doug cherishes even those memories.

Robert was only teaching his son what it took to succeed. Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett won two Daytona 500s and Davey Allison won another for Robert Yates Racing. Jarrett won the 1999 Cup championship with the team. As an owner, Robert Yates won 57 Cup races and 48 poles.

Now, Doug is the boss. He oversees the “vision” his father had of the Roush Yates Engines shop, which powered Kurt Busch to a Daytona 500 win and Ford teams to four other victories in the season’s first 11 races.

“He wants to make (his dad) proud,’’ Whitney said of Doug. “He’s always trying so hard.

“Doug is always moving the bar. I think Robert is so proud of that.’’

While Doug does what he can for his father and the family business, he couldn’t control what happened at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The past three years Robert, Doug and the rest of the family came to the Hall of Fame to see if Robert would be selected. Five are chosen each year. Robert ranked sixth in votes received twice, just missing enshrinement.

Robert Yates reacts after he is announced to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Each time, Robert said the voting panel got it right.

“Selfishly, I didn’t think so, but he did,’’ Doug said. “That was a lesson for me. Everything happens for a reason.’’

As Wednesday approached, Doug Yates’ anxiety grew. It was worse Wednesday morning and throughout the day.

As Doug walked into Hall of Fame, ahead of his father, he conceded he was “nervous.’’

He also was prepared.

Doug stocked multiple tissues in the pockets of his slacks.

“If he didn’t make it, I was going to break down,’’ Doug said of his father making the Hall of Fame. “If he did, I was going to break down.’’

Robert also felt nervous.

“If I don’t get in,’’ Robert told himself before the announcement, “that’s the reason to work real hard to be here next year to get in.’’

The family didn’t have to wait long to celebrate.

Robert Yates, who received 94 percent of the vote, was announced first.

“Wow,’’ Doug said. “I’m glad that’s over.’’

His father, sitting a row in front of Doug, reached back. Doug leaned forward. They held hands. 

After that it was a matter of relishing what had happened as four other men — Red Byron, Ray Evernham, Ken Squier and Ron Hornady Jr. — were selected to join Robert Yates in the next Hall of Fame Class.

Doug stay composed throughout. He wiped his eyes once.

When the ceremony ended, Robert Yates reached his arm around wife Carolyn and embraced her.

“My family means so much to me because they allowed me to work night and day,’’ Robert Yates said. “Do I love engines? Yes, whether one cylinder, two cylinders, six or 12 or 24. I love engines.’’

That passion led him to this moment.

“I feel like I could take a jack,’’ said the former jackman.

“I don’t know if I’ll sleep tonight.’’

Doug Yates will.

His father will be in the Hall of Fame.

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Announcer Ken Squier elected to NASCAR Hall of Fame (video)

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With 40 percent of the vote, announcer Ken Squier was elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s 2018 class.

Squier, 82, is one of the most iconic voices in NASCAR history.

A co-founder of the Motor Racing Network, Squier is famous for his call of the 1979 Daytona 500 on CBS, which was the first NASCAR race to be broadcast live on TV flag-to-flag. It was Squier who nicknamed the Daytona 500 the “Great American Race.”

Squier called races on CBS and TBS until 1997. For the last two years he has been a regular contributor to NBC Sports’ NASCAR coverage, including calling select portions of the Southern 500.

“It feels pretty darn good,” Squier told NASCAR America. “I announced so many races in so many places and met so many people. That’s the overwhelming feeling. To get this honor from the stock car crowd, that to me is beyond belief because there’s so many others that are doing similar things. So many people who are so committed and so caring about this sport and to think that I’ve been sort of singled out, I’ve never quite understood that.”

 

 

Four-time Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday Jr. elected to NASCAR Hall of Fame (video)

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With 38 percent of the vote, Ron Hornaday Jr. was elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s 2018 class.

Hornaday, 58, is a four-time champion of the Camping World Truck Series and holds the series’ wins record with 51 victories.

Hornaday raced in the series from its inception in 1995 through 1999 and then from 2005 through 2014.

He’s the first Truck Series champion to be elected to the Hall of Fame.

“There wasn’t even a Hall of Fame when I started racing, you just do it to put food on the table and enjoy it,” Hornaday told NASCAR America. “There’s so many people (to thank) … I don’t know who to thank and where to start.”

Hornaday won two of his championships driving for Dale Earnhardt Inc. and two for Kevin Harvick.

Ray Evernham, leader of the ‘Rainbow Warriors,’ elected to NASCAR Hall of Fame (video)

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With 52 percent of the vote, Ray Evernham was elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s 2018 class.

Evernham, 59, was the crew chief for Jeff Gordon and the “Rainbow Warriors” when they won three Cup Series championships from 1995-1998.

Evernham and Gordon won 47 races together before Evernham left Hendrick Motorsports in 1999 to lead Dodge’s return to NASCAR.

Evernham was in Indianapolis when he learned of his election to the Hall of Fame.

“I got my first NASCAR license in 1978 and that’s a long time ago,” Evernham told NASCAR America. “It’s a huge sense of relief but it’s also a very, very humbling feeling. There’s so many of my heroes who are in the Hall of Fame and so many of them that are nominated. When you have your name even mentioned in that, it’s incredible. This sport has been everything to me. It’s all I ever wanted to do, It’s all I’ve ever done.”