Truex hits for cycle to win in Las Vegas, Kyle Busch in fight

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Like hitting for the cycle in baseball, Martin Truex Jr. swept the first two stages and then rallied with just over one lap to go to win Sunday’s Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Truex passed pole-sitter Brad Keselowski just shy of the start-finish line on Lap 266 and then wrapped things up on the final lap to earn his first career triumph at the 1.5-mile track, his first win since Dover last fall and his fifth win in the last 27 NASCAR Cup races. No driver has won more races during that period than Truex.

“It was a gift,” Truex told Fox about Keselowski losing the lead. “We’ve been on the other side of them plenty of times. This is the first one to come our way.”

Truex led 150 of the 267 laps. It was the first win for Toyota in the 2017 season after Ford swept the first two races: the Daytona 500 (Kurt Busch) and Atlanta (Keselowski).

MORE: Kyle Busch bloodied in pit road altercation with Joey Logano and crew

WHAT’S YOUR TAKE? Poll — Should NASCAR penalize Kyle Busch for his actions after Sunday’s race?

MORE: Results from Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

MORE: Brad Keselowski takes Cup points lead after Las Vegas

Kyle Larson finished second, followed by Chase Elliott, Joey Logano and Keselowski. Sixth through 10th were Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth and Clint Bowyer.

There were fireworks on pit road after the race when Kyle Busch threw a punch at Joey Logano after a last-lap incident between the drivers.

Keselowski regained the lead from Truex with 24 laps to go. But Truex was not to be denied, shadowing Keselowski, who appeared to have some type of power or mechanical issues in the last two laps, dropping back in the field.

“It was something pretty major because we lost brakes and the car wouldn’t turn,” Keselowski told Fox.

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Several young guns had strong top-10 finishes including Kyle Larson (second), Chase Elliott (third), Joey Logano (fourth) and Ryan Blaney (seventh).

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: It was a rough day for Stewart-Haas Racing. Kevin Harvick, who entered the race as the NASCAR Cup points leader, saw his day end early when the right front tire on his car blew out on Lap 69. Then, Danica Patrick’s (finished 36th) engine expired 16 laps from the finish. Kurt Busch also had problems (30th). The top SHR driver was Clint Bowyer (10th).

NOTABLE: Drivers got the message from NASCAR about speeding on pit road. After 13 penalties at Atlanta last week, there were only three speeding violations in Sunday’s race. … Even though he had to return late to pit road to tighten lug nuts, defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson (11th) earned his best finish thus far this season, rallying to end up 11th, after finishing 34th at Daytona and 19th at Atlanta. Still, it marked the first time Johnson has not earned at least one top-10 finish in the first three races of a season in his Cup career.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I got dumped, flat out just drove straight into the corner and he wrecked me. That’s how Joey races, so he’s going to get it.” – Kyle Busch on last-lap contact with Joey Logano.

WHAT’S NEXT: March 19, Camping World 500, at Phoenix Raceway.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

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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