Dustin Long

Looking back on NASCAR’s 2016 season through pictures

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Another year is over. Another chance to go through the photos I took this year on the circuit and look back upon my favorite ones. Here’s just a few of those that stand out from the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.

I like this one a lot because it shows the joy Matt DiBenedetto and his family experienced after his career-high sixth-place finish at Bristol. The family moved from California to North Carolina years ago, in part, to help further their son’s racing career. They’ve been through ups and downs and DiBenedetto has had his share of start-and-park rides. But at Bristol, he took advantage of being in the right lane on some late restarts and climbed to a top-10 finish. Afterward, his family, including his brother who was on leave from the military, celebrated as if Matt had won the race.

Matt DiBenedetto celebrates with his family after finishing a career-high sixth at Bristol in the spring. DiBenedetto's father is in the center and DiBenedetto's mom is to the left of DiBenedetto's father. (Photo: Dustin Long)
Matt DiBenedetto celebrates with his family after finishing a career-high sixth at Bristol in the spring. DiBenedetto’s father is in the center and DiBenedetto’s mom is to his left. (Photo: Dustin Long)

When people look back on 2016, many will look back on what was missed – Dale Earnhardt Jr. His last race of the year turned out to be July 9 at Kentucky. Earnhardt missed the rest of the season as he recovered from a concussion. Fans missed him throughout the year. I saw this note written on the pit wall for the No. 88 team at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It kind of summed up how many fans felt this year.

A fan's note to Dale Earnhardt and his sub, Jeff Gordon, on the No. 88 team's pit wall at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Photo: Dustin Long)
A fan’s note to Dale Earnhardt and his sub, Jeff Gordon, on the No. 88 team’s pit wall at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Photo: Dustin Long)

I like the below photo of Matt Kenseth because it’s just Matt being Matt.

Matt Kenseth at Bristol in August. (Photo: Dustin Long)
Matt Kenseth at Bristol in August. (Photo: Dustin Long)

Got to love the pants the crew for Tony Stewart wore at Darlington Raceway for the Southern 500 throwback uniform. One of the best outfits of the weekend.

Tony Stewart's throwback car pushed by his crew in their throwback uniforms at Darlington Raceway. (Photo: Dustin Long)
Tony Stewart’s throwback car pushed by his crew in their throwback uniforms at Darlington Raceway. (Photo: Dustin Long)

Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart after NASCAR told them to play nice after their Richmond incident.

Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart after leaving the NASCAR hauler at Chicagoland Speedway, a week after their incident at Richmond and Newman's criticism after the incident. (Photo: Dustin Long)
Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart after leaving the NASCAR hauler at Chicagoland Speedway, a week after their incident at Richmond and Newman’s criticism after the incident. (Photo: Dustin Long)

One of my favorite pictures of the year. Jimmie Johnson in a quiet moment with his daughter before a race.

Jimmie Johnson spending some special family time before the fall race at Charlotte Motor Speedway that Johnson went on to win. (Photo: Dustin Long)
Jimmie Johnson spending some special family time before the fall race at Charlotte Motor Speedway that Johnson went on to win. (Photo: Dustin Long)

Another photo I really liked. William Byron had just suffered a heart-wrenching defeat at Phoenix in the Camping World Truck Series race. Byron was leading when his engine failed in the final laps and he failed to advance to the title race in Miami. As he walked down pit road toward an area to do interviews after the race, I caught this scene of a competitor offering his condolences to Byron on his tough break.

William Byron (center) is offered condolences after shortly after his truck blew an engine while leading at Phoenix in November. A win would have put Byron in the title race in Miami in the Camping World Truck Series. (Photo: Dustin Long)
William Byron (center) is offered condolences after shortly after his truck blew an engine while leading at Phoenix in November. A win would have put Byron in the title race in Miami in the Camping World Truck Series. (Photo: Dustin Long)

This about says it all.

Jimmie Johnson celebrates his record-tying seventh championship. (Photo: Dustin Long)
Jimmie Johnson celebrates his record-tying seventh championship. (Photo: Dustin Long)

NASCAR America: Kyle Busch questions Xfinity rules package at Indy

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Kyle Busch isn’t afraid to speak his mind, and he certainly did so after Saturday’s  Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

NASCAR implemented a number of changes to make the racing closer, tighter and more exciting — including restrictor plates, a larger rear spoiler, aero ducts, and a smaller splitter — and achieved all that on many fronts.

But not for the younger Busch brother, who wasn’t pleased with the rules package. Was it actually designed to specifically slow him down rather than to even out things for the entire field?

Or was he just simply upset because he didn’t win a third Xfinity race in a row at IMS?

Check out how our NASCAR America analysts gauged the Xfinity changes in the above video.

 

TriStar Motorsports team owner Mark Smith passes away

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Mark Smith, owner of TriStar Motorsports, died Saturday at his home, after a long battle with cancer, the team announced Monday. He was 63.

He began his racing career building engines for his brother Jack’s drag car in the 1970s. He moved his family from the West Coast in the early 1990s to pursue a career in NASCAR. He was the owner of TriStar Motorsports and Pro Motor Engines.

TriStar Motorsports fields the No. 14 in the Xfinty Series with JJ Yeley and the No. 72 in the Cup Series with Cole Whitt. The team stated the team will continue operations under the management of Bryan Smith, son of Mark Smith.

“It was dad’s dream to own and operate a NASCAR team,” Bryan Smith said. “He devoted his life to that dream and his family plans to honor his wishes by continuing our efforts in his memory.”

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Victory Junction Gang victoryjunction.org or NOVA (National Organization for Vehicle Access, part of the BraunAbility) novafunding.org.

The family will receive friends from 5-8 p.m. ET, Aug. 1 at Cavin-Cook Funeral Home, Mooresville, North Carolina. They have created a Facebook page where you are encouraged to leave a story for the family to enjoy. (facebook.com/Remembering-Mark-Smith-301261653675224)

NASCAR America: Analysts break down Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. wreck (video)

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Given how wild the Brickyard 400 played out, the big wreck between race leaders Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. wasn’t exactly surprising.

Rather, with the way the race transpired from the opening lap, was the Busch/Truex wreck almost inevitable?

Truex got loose and washed up into the left rear of Busch’s car, sending both drivers and their respective cars into the outside retaining walls, hitting hard and ending their respective days.

Check out what our NASCAR America analysts had to say about the wreck from Monday’s show in the above video.

NASCAR America: Dale Earnhardt Jr. recaps wild Brickyard 400 (video)

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On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, Dale Earnhardt Jr. — who will become part of our NBC Sports Group in 2018 — looked back on a wild and intense Brickyard 400.

Earnhardt was one of several drivers whose day came to an early ending — in Junior’s case when he ran into the back of Trevor Bayne‘s car, destroying his radiator in the process.

All the mayhem and mishaps could be linked to over-aggressive driving, Earnhardt said, saying that every driver was in “attack mode,” especially on restarts.

Check out Junior in the video above.