Chase Elliott wins first Can-Am Duel race at Daytona

1 Comment

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.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Atlanta Motor Speedway to delay repave at least a year

1 Comment

The cries of drivers have been heard. Atlanta Motor Speedway will not repave its track as previously scheduled. Instead, track officials will evaluate the surface following the 2018 race there.

Speedway Motorsports Inc., which owns the track, had planned to have the track surface repaved beginning in late March. It would have been the first repave there since 1997.

Engineers examined the track after the March 5 race to determine if the track surface could last another year with modest repairs. Track officials also consulted with Goodyear and others.

“There’s no question that the surface is worn out, but probably the most powerful lobby this side of Washington, D.C., was the biggest influence,” Ed Clark, president of Atlanta Motor Speedway, told NBC Sports of the drivers. “They kind of put the pressure on. I understand.”

After winning there, Brad Keselowski made his pitch not to repave the track.

“Drivers hate repaves,” he said. “We want to see the surfaces last as long as they can.  But the reality is nothing lasts forever, and this surface has made it a really, really long time, 20 years, I think, this season, and they should be really proud of that.

“My hope is they can get another year or two out of it, and I understand if they can’t, and you have to kind of leave it to their expertise and so forth.”

Clark said that work will need to be done to the track before next year’s race.

“The worst part is down the frontstretch in front of the grandstands,” Clark told NBC Sports. “There’s a lot of issues there. We’re actually going to have to cut a few areas and patch … to make it last through 2018. We consulted with Goodyear on that. They don’t think, as long as it is on the straightaway, it is a big issue from a tire standpoint.”

Clark said that the track surface will be sealed in October and should have the patching done before then.

“Let them go ahead and slip and slide one more time in 2018,” Clark said.

Clark said that while anything can change, he doesn’t foresee being talked out of a repave job too many more times.

“You have to see how the weekend goes and what happens,” Clark told NBC Sports. “We had to patch some places after the Saturday events this year, small places. Hey, if we could go two more, great. All you’ve got to do is walk out there and look at it. It is absolutely worn out. But if the drivers say, hey our choice is to race on this surface as it is.

“There comes a point (when a repave is needed). We do have a few drainage issues we do need to correct, some other things when the time comes. Right now, we’re going to get through 2018 and evaluate and see if that is the time or when is it.”

Clark said that when the track is repaved, Goodyear has expressed interest in having two test sessions to determine the proper tire for that 1.5-mile track instead of the customary one because of the track’s challenging surface.

Clark warns that with the excitement of Tuesday’s news, the day is still coming when the track will have to be repaved.

“I can’t see this going two more seasons, maybe only one,” Clark said.

 and on Facebook

 

 

NASCAR America — My Home Track: 50 States In 50 Shows — Arkansas

Leave a comment

On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, we continued our series of My Home Track: 50 States in 50 Shows as our trucks rolled into Arkansas!

We visited two short tracks in the state that produced President Bill Clinton and Basketball Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen.

Plus we talked to NASCAR Hall of Famer and Arkansas native Mark Martin about racing in his home state.

NASCAR America: Is there cause for concern with Jimmie Johnson’s performance thus far?

2 Comments

It’s no secret that Jimmie Johnson is off to a slow start in 2017.

The defending and seven-time NASCAR Cup champion has a starting average of 21.8 and a finishing average of 18.8 in the first five races of this season.

He has just one top-10 finish (ninth at Phoenix), along with 34th at Daytona, 19th at Atlanta, 11th at Las Vegas and 21st Sunday at Fontana.

And let’s not forget he’s 17th in the NASCAR Cup standings heading to one of his strongest tracks, Martinsville Speedway, this Sunday.

On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, we discussed this: After such a slow start to the season, is there a cause for concern over Johnson’s performance?

NASCAR America: Mark Martin is definitely a Kyle Larson fan

Leave a comment

On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin shared his experience of racing in his home state of Arkansas, as well as the excitement he feels watching  Kyle Larson compete in the Cup series.