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.

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Xfinity crew chief Chris Gabehart penalized $5,000 for loose lug nut at Indy

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NASCAR has issued one penalty resulting from last weekend’s races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Chris Gabehart, crew chief for the No. 20 Xfinity Series car of Joe Gibbs Racing, was fined $5,000 on Wednesday.

Gabehart was penalized for violating Sections 10.4 and 10.9 of the NASCAR Rule Book covering Tires and Wheels: Lug nut(s) not properly installed at the conclusion of the Lilly Diabetes 250.

There were no other penalties related to last weekend’s Xfinity or NASCAR Cup races in Indianapolis or the Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway.

Richard Childress Racing to announce plans for a third Cup team ‘at a later date’

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With Paul Menard and his family’s home improvement chain sponsorship on the move to Wood Brothers Racing for 2018, Richard Childress Racing has a major funding gap to address.

Menards has adorned the No. 27 Chevrolet for RCR for seven consecutive Cup seasons and is among the last full-season sponsors in NASCAR’s premier series. It assuredly is the most lucrative of RCR’s sponsorships.

Though the team is committed to fielding Chevys for Ryan Newman and Austin Dillon next season, the impending departure of Menard leaves questions about whether RCR will remain a three-car team in 2018.

In a statement Wednesday morning, team chairman and CEO Richard Childress said the team “will be announcing our plans for a third Cup team and our overall 2018 team lineup at a later date.”

Here’s the full statement from Childress:

Paul Menard and Menards, Inc. have had a partnership with RCR for seven years. Together, we have enjoyed a tremendous amount of success, including Paul’s emotional win at Indianapolis in 2011. He is a very talented driver and a good friend. Everyone at RCR wishes both Paul and Menards nothing but the best in the future.

Our entire RCR organization is 100 percent focused on getting all three of our Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series programs in the playoffs this year, and bringing another Cup championship to RCR in 2017.

We will be announcing our plans for a third Cup team and our overall 2018 team lineup at a later date.

 

Paul Menard will move to the Wood Brothers for 2018 season

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Paul Menard will join Wood Brothers Racing next season, the team announced Wednesday. He will replace Ryan Blaney, who will move after this season to run a third Cup car for Team Penske.

Menards will sponsor the car in 22 races. Additional sponsorship, including plans for long-time partner Motorcraft/Quick Lane, will be announced later. The technical alliance between Team Penske and the Wood Brothers will continue.

“It’s fantastic to have the ability to continue to race in the highest level of motorsports full-time and something we look forward to doing with Paul for years to come,” said co-owner Eddie Wood in a statement. “I know this will allow us to continue to perform as an organization and will give Paul a great opportunity to go out there and compete for wins. Paul is not only a great driver with a lot of experience in the Cup Series, but he’s great with partners, which is a big part of what we do these days. We are looking forward to finishing out this season with Ryan (Blaney), going for more wins and maybe even a championship, and continuing that with Paul in 2018.”

Said Menard: “I’ve really enjoyed my time in NASCAR and as a Cup Series driver, but to get the chance to drive the iconic No. 21 for the Wood Brothers is the coolest thing I’ve ever got a chance to do. I’m looking forward to working with the team, working with Roush Yates, Ford Performance and Team Penske to see what we can do. Ryan (Blaney) has done a fantastic job and is a constant threat to run up front. Hopefully, we can do the same thing and keep the momentum going into 2018 and beyond.”

Also, Menard will run a handful of Xfinity races for Team Penske next year.

Menard had been with Richard Childress Racing since 2011, scoring his lone Cup victory — the 2011 Brickyard 400 — with the organization.

Menard’s best finish in the points with the organization was 14th in 2015. He is 23rd in the points with no wins, two top fives and three top-10 finishes this season.

The move marks the fourth organization the 36-year-old Menard has raced full-time for in his Cup career. He drove for Dale Earnhardt Inc. from 2007-08, Yates Racing from 2009-10 and Childress since.

Car owner Richard Childress issued a statement:

“Paul Menard and Menards, Inc. have had a partnership with RCR for seven years. Together, we have enjoyed a tremendous amount of success, including Paul’s emotional win at Indianapolis in 2011. He is a very talented driver and a good friend. Everyone at RCR wishes both Paul and Menards nothing but the best in the future.
“Our entire RCR organization is 100 percent focused on getting all three of our Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series programs in the playoffs this year, and bringing another Cup championship to RCR in 2017.
“We will be announcing our plans for a third Cup team and our overall 2018 team lineup at a later date.”

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Ryan Blaney to join Team Penske in 2018

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Ryan Blaney will move to Team Penske and drive a third Cup car for that organization, the team announced Wednesday.

Blaney will drive the No. 12 Ford in 2018 and has signed a multi-year contract extension.

“For some time now, we have wanted to bring Ryan in to run a third car for us, but things just needed to make sense from a timing and business perspective,” said team owner Roger Penske.  “We have been working on making this a reality and 2018 is the right opportunity to make this move and return our organization to a three-car team. The benefits of having three full-time teams under our roof, along with the continued technical partnership with the Wood Bothers, will help us remain competitive in the ever-changing NASCAR landscape.”

MORE: Paul Menard to take over Wood Brothers ride in 2018

Blaney, who won at Pocono in June, is 12th in the standings. He has seven top-10 finishes in 20 starts this season.

“This is a huge opportunity for me and my career,” said Blaney, a third-generation driver from High Point, North Carolina, in a statement. “I’ve always enjoyed racing whatever car I was in and trying to win each and every race. I’ve had some great moments with both Team Penske and the Wood Brothers over the last few years. I know for a fact I wouldn’t be where I am today without Roger (Penske), Eddie and Len (Wood) and the opportunities their organizations have given me. I’m thrilled knowing that Brad (Keselowski) and Joey (Logano) are long-term teammates for me at Team Penske and Paul (Menard) will have input with our team now that he’s with the Wood Brothers organization. Hopefully we can go out there and win races and compete for championships year after year.”

The 23-year-old Blaney first signed with Team Penske in 2012. He has raced for Wood Brothers Racing, which is aligned with Team Penske, since 2015. He ran about half the 2015 season and has done the full season the past two years for the organization.

This marks the first time since 2010 that Team Penske has fielded three full-time entries. It did so that season with Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski and Sam Hornish Jr.

With adding a third car, Team Penske will need to acquire a charter for that car.

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