Jeremy Clements’ first Xfinity win felt ‘like it was meant to be’

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When crew chief Danny Gill saw Jeremy Clements and Matt Tifft go spinning off the track in the last corner of Road America, he instantly looked down at his timing and scoring screen.

Clements and his No. 51 Chevrolet still had a chance to win the Johnsonville 180.

With the field coming to take the white flag, the third-place car driven by Michael Annett was 10.7 seconds behind the leaders and their precarious situation.

Gill just hoped the starter on Clements’ car would cooperate.

“We seen the spin and we seen the car get back straight,” Gill said during the winner’s press conference. “I knew if he could just get it rolling that we still had the better race car. … Thank goodness for that starter on that Clements’ Racing engine.”

Clements, who has competed full-time in the Xfinity Series since 2011 and was making his 256th career start, thought he’d ruined his best shot at a getting his first NASCAR win after his pass of Tifft in Turn 14 went haywire.

“I definitely thought, ‘Wow, good job. Way to go. Could have won this race and you just gave it up,’ ” Clements said. “I just didn’t give up and luckily it worked out. It was like it was meant to be.”

Clements got back underway and took the white flag before Annett even got close to taking the lead. One 4.048-mile lap later, Clements locked himself into the playoffs with three races left in the regular season. He was mathematically out of contention to make it on points.

And Clements did it in a car that was built almost a decade ago.

“We’ve got to make a lot of sacrifices,” Clements said. “My dad (team owner Tony Clements) said already we run old stuff every week. This car was literally built in 2008. We build our own engines. We just try to bring stuff each year better and better as we can get more money to throw at it.”

The No. 51 Chevrolet Clements pulled into victory lane was also recently patched together. It was the same car Clements wrecked at Mid-Ohio two weeks ago when he plowed into the back of Spencer Gallagher as part of a five-car crash on Lap 53.

“It got threw back together and we won with it and I’m just so shocked about that,” Clements said. “That is just amazing to me to take a car like that that was killed, the front end was destroyed and (Gill) was on suicide watch. I (was) too, but I hate it. But it’s racing, you’re going to wreck these things. That’s the way it goes.”

Clements’ team, founded in 2010, operates with a “fraction” of the budget that teams like Joe Gibbs Racing, JR Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing have the luxury of enjoying.

And in the closing laps, with fresher tires on his car, Clements had next to no idea he was outrunning those teams.

“There’s no scoreboard out there, so you can’t see what’s going (on),” Clements said. “I’m just driving as hard as I can the whole race. When we had pitted and we were behind a few cars, I thought ‘well, maybe those guys are the leaders. I don’t know.’ We got to third and (Gill) said ‘you’re in third’ and I thought, ‘OK, we might have a shot at this. Wow. This is for real.'”

It became even more real once he took second place with six laps to go and Tifft was getting closer in his windshield.

“I was licking my chops, man,” Clements said. “I mean first victory. I was just so excited. I couldn’t believe that was right there for me to get.”

Clements admits he was “a little impatient” with his attempt to get around Tifft, but in his defense “it’s kind of the last lap.”

The win also comes 13 years after 10 surgeries helped save Clements’ right hand, which was severely injured in a late-model crash. At the time, his doctor told him he’d never be able to race again.

“We were able to prove him wrong, thankfully,” Clements said. “But I had some good doctors to make that happen, so got to thank them for sure. That was a freak deal. That was so long ago it feels like it didn’t even happen now. I definitely got the hand to prove it. I’m just psyched to be here. I can’t even believe we won the race.”

Martin Truex Jr. wins Stage 1 of New Hampshire playoff race

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Martin Truex Jr. won the first stage of the NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for his 19th stage win of the season.

Pole-sitter Kyle Busch led the race until Truex passed him coming to the start-finish line to start Lap 41. Truex led the final 36 laps of the 75-lap stage.

The top 10 after 75 laps is Truex, Kyle Larson, Busch, Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick.

Jones was the only non-playoff driver in the top 10.

There were no cautions in the stage.

Joey Logano, who started last after multiple inspection failures kept him from qualifying, finished the stage in 13th.

Playoff driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. made contact with the wall during the first 10 laps and finished the stage in 22nd.

Stage 2 will end on Lap 150 of the 300-lap race.

 

Don’t stand for anthem? Richard Childress says get on the bus afterward

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LOUDON, New Hampshire — While many NFL players kneeled during the “The Star-Spangled Banner” before games Sunday, NASCAR crews stood along pit road for the national anthem.

More attention has been paid to the issue since President Donald Trump said in a speech Friday that NFL owners should fire players who kneel during “The Star-Spangled Banner.’’

Several NFL players have not stood for the anthem before games to protest the treatment of blacks by police. Former quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the trend last year when he played with the San Francisco 49ers.

Car owner Richard Childress was asked before Sunday’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway what the policy was for his team if someone kneeled for the anthem.

“Get you a ride on a Greyhound bus when the national anthem is over,’’ Childress said on pit road. “Anybody that works for me should respect the country we live in. So many people gave their lives for it. This is America.’’

Richard Petty told USA Today: “Anybody that don’t stand up for (the anthem) ought to be out of the country. Period. If they don’t appreciate where they’re at … what got them where they’re at? The United States.”

Car owner Joe Gibbs said he didn’t talk about the issue with his team before the race.

“You’ve got an athletic event and that’s what we’re going to have,’’ Gibbs said.

Car owner Chip Ganassi said: “I like Mike Tomlin’s answer.’’

Tomlin is the coach of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers. All but one of his team’s players stayed off the field for the anthem before its game Sunday.

Tomlin told CBS Sports before the game: “We’re not going to play politics. We’re football players, we’re football coaches. We’re not participating in the anthem today. Not to be disrespectful to the anthem, to remove ourselves from the circumstance. People shouldn’t have to choose. If a guy wants to go about his normal business and participate in the anthem, he shouldn’t be forced to choose sides. If a guy feels the need to do something he shouldn’t be separated from his teammates who chooses not to. So we’re not participating today. That’s our decision.”

Last year, Austin Dillon talked about how the sport displays patriotism.

“I don’t know how it would go over with the fans – we’re a very patriotic sport,” Dillon said if someone in NASCAR would kneel during the anthem. “I think our sport does a good job of showing that every Saturday, Sunday of showing patriotism and what the flag means. Not only that, we have a lot of military out here each and every weekend.

“I’ve got SEAL guys that will personally text me and say, ‘Hey, thank you for not moving around (during the anthem). … It means a lot to them just to stand at attention.”

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Joey Logano looks to rebound from rough weekend, Chase Elliott eyes win (videos)

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It’s been a rough weekend already for Joey Logano.

He failed pre-qualifying inspection four times and was not allowed to make a qualifying attempt, as a result.

Then, NASCAR kept Logano from participating in the final practice Saturday, also being penalized because of failing qualifying inspection.

We caught up with Logano before Sunday’s ISM Connect 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Check out his thoughts for today’s race in the video above, as well as Kyle Petty and Dale Jarrett’s thoughts.

Also, check out Chase Elliott, who finished second at Chicgaoland, and his thoughts about today’s race as he once again chases his first potential win for 2017 in the video below.

Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman at New Hampshire: It’s all about getting a win (video)

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Matt Kenseth remains winless thus far in 2017.

A few hours later today, Kenseth hopes to break that winless streak with a visit to victory lane at the conclusion of the ISM Connect 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Kenseth was interviewed before the race by NBCSN and admits that while earning points is important, winning is much more important today.

Will he be able to do it?

Check what Kenseth had to say in the video above.

And then there’s Ryan Newman, who had a disappointing 23rd place finish at Chicagoland and looks to get back on track today.

Check out what Newman had to say in a pre-race interview on NBCSN below.