Chase Elliott wins first Can-Am Duel race at Daytona

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In what could be a preview of Sunday’s main event, Daytona 500 pole-sitter Chase Elliott won the first of Thursday night’s two Can-Am Duel races at Daytona International Speedway.

Elliott took the lead on Lap 37 of the 60-lap race and held off challenges from several drivers including runner-up Jamie McMurray, third-place finisher Kevin Harvick and fourth-place finisher Brad Keselowski.

It was Elliott’s first win in his NASCAR Cup career.

“We had some steam tonight, and it was apparent,” Elliott told Fox Sports 1. “I’m excited about how this thing ran tonight, keeping it in one piece. I know this is only a Duel win and doesn’t count towards a win in the playoffs, but it still means a lot to me and the team. It’s a great way to start the season.”

MORE: Results from Can-Am Duel 1 at Daytona

MORE: What drivers said after first Can-Am Duel race at Daytona

For the first time in the modern NASCAR era, the top-10 finishing drivers earned points for their finish in both duel races. Also earning points in the first Duel were Matt Kenseth (finished fifth), Trevor Bayne (sixth), Martin Truex Jr. (seventh), Aric Almirola (eighth), Joey Logano (ninth) and Cole Whitt (10th).

There were six lead changes among three different drivers: Elliott, Keselowski and Kyle Busch.

There were two cautions (including a scheduled competition caution on Lap 26) and just one significant wreck in the event.

On Lap 50, Reed Sorenson’s hopes of racing his way into Sunday’s Daytona 500 ended after he was tapped from behind by Corey LaJoie, spun and slammed head-on into a SAFER barrier. Also collected in the wreck was Paul Menard.

LaJoie, who finished 18th, will race in Sunday’s event, while Sorenson and Timmy Hill failed to make the 40-car field.

“Guess he felt like he did what he needed to do. Hope he’s proud of it,” Sorenson said of LaJoie to Fox Sports 1.

Who else had a good race: Jamie McMurray, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski finished second through fourth and all had strong performances, but couldn’t catch Elliott in the closing laps. … Aric Almirola, the only car running in the Cup series for Richard Petty Motorsports this season, looked strong and finished eighth.

Who had a bad race: Brendan Gaughan could never get going and finished 19th in the 21-driver field.

Notable: 2015 Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano had to make an unscheduled pit stop due to a vibration on Lap 13. He fell one lap back as a result and finished ninth. … Daniel Suarez, who will be competing in his first NASCAR Cup regular season event Sunday, finished 12th … Chase Elliott is the youngest driver in NASCAR history to win a Daytona 500 qualifying race. Previous mark was held by Jeff Gordon when he won this event in 1993

Quote of the day: “Man, when I’m trying to get into the Daytona 500, if my mom was in that spot I’d probably wreck her too. I’m racing on Sunday.” — Corey LaJoie on qualifying to race in Sunday’s race.

What’s next: Sunday’s 59th Daytona 500, with a 2 p.m. ET green flag.

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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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