Jamie McMurray spins during final stage restart in Chicago (video)

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Playoff driver Jamie McMurray caused the first caution for an accident in the Cup Series playoffs after spinning on a restart with 99 laps left in the Tales of the Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.

McMurray managed to keep his No. 1 Chevrolet off the wall after he spun on the backstretch from contact with Ryan Newman, another playoff driver.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver now runs in the top 10. There are 14 cars on the lead lap.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. paces Cup field in opening practice at Atlanta

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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. posted the fastest lap in Friday’s Cup practice session at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Stenhouse led the way with a lap of 186.384 mph. He was followed by Kyle Larson (185.915 mph), Daytona 500 runner-up Darrell Wallace Jr. (185.834), Ty Dillon (185.648) and Alex Bowman (185.294).

Jimmie Johnson ran the most laps at 23. Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer each ran 21 laps.

There were no incidents in the 80-minute session.

Cup qualifying is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. ET Friday.

Click here for full practice report

Bubba Wallace told Denny Hamlin his Adderall comments ‘make us all look bad’

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HAMPTON, Ga. – Bubba Wallace says he is ready to put his post-Daytona 500 skirmish with Denny Hamlin behind, but his extracurricular membership privileges would indicate otherwise for his new rival.

“I’m all good,” Wallace said in a Friday morning interview with NBC Sports at Atlanta Motor Speedway. “I texted him Tuesday and he was like I’m kicked out of the golf league and the basketball league.”

Hamlin runs a weekly basketball gathering with NASCAR types called the Hoop Group and also is a key member of “The Golf Guys”. Wallace is a longtime member of the basketball league but said later he decided he wouldn’t play anymore. The Daytona 500 runner-up learned he was out of the golf league via five or six texts from “intermediaries.”

“No more,” Wallace said with a laugh. “My first season with Golf Guys, and I’m out. Damn it.”

 During a Fox interview after practice Friday, Hamlin joked that “those positions have been filled” when asked about the leagues. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver said he was using the feud “as motivation. I’ve always been motivated. It just fires me up more to be more motivated. So, I have no issue at all. I’m here to do the best I can to get a good finish and put us in position to do well in the regular season, win some races, get some bonus points. These little bumps in the road are … they really are just speed bumps.”

Hamlin and Wallace slammed into each other on the last lap of Sunday’s race at Daytona International Speedway and then engaged in a shouting match in the garage after Hamlin learned that Wallace had taken a dig at him on national TV about his recent comments about drivers using Adderall.

“From his tweets, he’s more upset about what was said after the fact,” Wallace said. “Which he had started as a joke. So when you take a dig at him, it’s not good. One-way street, I guess.”

Kevin Harvick said on his Happy Hours show on SiriusXM Satellite Radio that Hamlin should keep his mouth shut because of a lot of veterans were angry about his Adderall comments. Wallace said he echoed those comments to Hamlin.

“Yeah, it makes us all look bad,” Wallace said. “And I told (Hamlin) that. He said, ‘I don’t need a PR lesson from you.’ I’m like, ‘OK. I’ll be the one to say it.’ I won’t hold back. Clearly.”

A Facebook Watch documentary film crew that has been following Wallace for a docuseries has footage of the altercation but didn’t put it in the last two episodes that were released Thursday. Wallace said he wouldn’t have minded if it had been released.

“No, I wouldn’t care, but then the media would take it as, ‘Uh-oh, what are we going to expect from that at Atlanta,’” Wallace said. “Nothing! I’m going to go out and run my own race. He’s run here a million times and won a couple of races. This is my first time in a Cup car. I’m going to figure it out on my own and not even worry about him. It’s good that it wasn’t in there, but it’s also … I don’t know.

“I guess you can keep playing it up, but according to him, he wants to let it die down. He’s tired of hearing about the Adderall comment. Don’t make the comment, dumb ass!”

Here’s more of Wallace’s Q&A with NBC Sports, which took place in between several media hits that Wallace was doing in victory lane at Atlanta:

Q: You were at a heavy metal concert Tuesday night in Charlotte. Did you get recognized as Daytona 500 runner-up?

A: “I did! I went to will call and said ‘Hey, Darrell Wallace, plus one.’ And he held up my ID and said, ‘Hey, good job!’ And the lady behind him was ‘Hey, great job.’ Thanks!”

Q: Has that happened often since Sunday?

A: “Yes, it has. I’ve gotten a couple of people that were like, ‘Man, you’re a race car driver.’ I’m sitting in the lobby of the hotel, doing some CNN stuff, and a guy walks up and says, ‘Are you Bubba Wallace?’ ‘Yeah, I am.’ That was an awesome race. We go to Panda Express yesterday, and a firefighter is standing next to me. So I made eye contact, and I believe he was looking at his phone with me on it. Trying to put the two together. He’s like, ‘Are you Bubba Wallace?’ ‘Today, I am. Yes sir.’ ‘Oh man, great race Sunday.’ It’s pretty cool.”

Q: You heard from Lewis Hamilton and Hank Aaron before the race. Any big names since then?

A: “Man, I haven’t gotten anybody like that. But I did run into (former Washington Redskins star) Darrell Green right there as Denny Hamlin and I were going at it, Darrell Green was standing right here beside me, and he was like man, you handled yourself well there. This is awesome. So he was a fan. Elliott Sadler reached out with words of wisdom and advice. Just seeing what Dale and Kevin said on their podcast was really cool. Over 200 text messages. I haven’t gotten that many after I’ve won a race. Pretty cool.”

Q: Did you have editorial control of the Facebook Watch documentary?

A: “A little bit. I told him going into it. I did that BET show in 2010. Changing Lanes. That was super staged. I can’t watch reality shows now because I know all of it is fake. And I told them I’m not doing this shit if it’s staged. I will not do it. Some of it was just kind of recapping our day, which didn’t really understand. We’d do all the stuff in that one day, and then we’d talk about what we did. So. They can see what we did! They know what we’re doing! What’s the point in talking about it? So that got really old, really fast. So there will be some tweaks when we go back if they want to do a second season. Which they’ve talked about. But I’m not too excited on it.

“I dropped a dollar amount on them, and it was a substantial increase, and they were like OK. I’m like ‘Shit!’ I should have went way above that. I screwed myself.”

Q: Well, as long as you didn’t sign anything …

A: “I did. But it’s not set in stone for season 2. They just want an option to do it. We’ll see. It’d be this year. I don’t know when.”

Q: So you were happy with it, but it’s a hassle.

A: “Oh, it’s so much hassle. There’s a lot of stress that comes from it. Just because it’s can you do this, or do that? What’s your plans for today? I don’t go by a plan. If (Ryan) Blaney and (girlfriend) Amanda and I want to do something, I’ll wait for her to get home from work, we’ll sit there and do the typical couple argument what do you want to eat, what do you want to eat. OK, cool. We’re going there. They want to do at 7:30 what are you all doing? (Expletive), I don’t know. I’ll probably be on the (toilet). I don’t know. So annoying!”

Q: What will a good finish at Atlanta be for your team?

A: “I had the chance to ride with The King last night, we had a Coca-Cola dinner, so I fired off this question, ‘So what do you expect for this season?’ I wanted to know his take. And obviously keeping everything in realistic check, we want to win races, but going from where we were last year to winning races and being a dominant car, it’s not going to happen. That’s not how the sport works. So you go through the climbing of the ladder to get there. And so he says we were a top 15 to 20 car last year, mostly toward the top 20 side. And I want to be that top eight, that top 12 car. All right. I like it. I just kept saying top 10, top 15, moving it up that next second, and he went just a little bit beyond that, which I think we can do. Atlanta will be pretty tough. Just from me never having the best of stuff here, but we managed to get a sixth place, but that’s the Xfinity Series. Here, eight guys, you still got 10 others that are super fast, so that’ll be tough, but I’m excited. It was good to hear from where he wanted to stand, and he even said we’re not going to be that dominant car. It’s not going to happen. There will be some days where we’ll finish better than top 10. Way better. There’ll be some days where we finish way worse than top 10. It’s just one of those days.”

Q: Is that optimism from Daytona or there before it?

A: “I think it was there before that. At the end of the day, yeah, you finish second at Daytona. Great. Anyone can do that. Anyone who enters the Daytona 500 has a chance to win unless they are there to ride around in the back. Wrecks go that way. There hasn’t been a race yet where all the cars are wrecked out except one, but there’s a chance that could happen. So whoever is riding around in the back that misses every wreck and everybody wrecks out, there’s your Daytona 500 winner. That’s how the plate races go, so yeah, it was great to be able to get through that and still battle. How many cars on the lead lap in Daytona, 15? OK. But it’s Daytona. As long as you miss the wrecks, you’re going to have a good finish.”

Q: Is tire management over 500 miles the toughest part?

A: “For sure. I was watching the race last night, and Harvick even leading just coming off Turn 4 sideways. Nine laps into it. I’m like, ‘Jesus Christ.’ All right, he had a 2-second lead. I can only imagine what 15th place is like.”

NASCAR America returns to NBCSN on Monday, February 26

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NASCAR America, NBCSN’s daily motorsports show, returns for its fifth season this Monday, February 26 at 5 p.m. ET. The season premiere will provide complete coverage of this weekend’s triple-header action at the year’s first mile-and-a-half track, Atlanta Motor Speedway.

NASCAR on NBC reporter Marty Snider (@HeyMartysnider) will host NASCAR America next week, from NBC Sports Group’s headquarters in Stamford, Conn., alongside NASCAR on NBC analyst and the “Mayor” of NASCAR Jeff Burton (@JeffBurton), and Daytona 500-winning crew chief Steve Letarte (@SteveLetarte).

The 2018 NASCAR America season will feature regular appearances by NASCAR on NBC’s newest crew member Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@Dalejr), as well as Hall of Fame driver Dale Jarrett (@DaleJarrett) and auto racing icon Kyle Petty (@KylePetty). NASCAR on NBC’s pre- and post-race host Krista Voda (@kristavoda), and studio host Carolyn Manno (@carolynmanno), also return as regular hosts of NASCAR America.

NBCSports.com’s lead motorsports writer Nate Ryan (@nateryan), features reporter Rutledge Wood (@rutledgewood), in addition to reporters Kelli Stavast (@KelliStavast), Dave Burns (@tvdaveburns) and Parker Kligerman (@pkligerman) will also return to contribute regular reports and features.

In 2018, NASCAR America will also bring back its extended series My Home Track: 50 States in 50 Shows. Crossing the country alphabetically from Alabama to Wyoming, the favorite series will showcase and celebrate local race tracks and racing communities in all 50 states across the country.

Airing each weeknight at 5 p.m. ET, NASCAR America will include in-studio driver interviews, regular interviews with crew members from race shops across the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series, regular live i-racing simulator segments, and weekly deep dive Scan All segments with audio from each race weekend.

NASCAR America originates from NBC Sports Group’s headquarters in Stamford, Conn., with contributions from NBC Sports Charlotte, in Charlotte, N.C., Burton’s Garage, in Huntersville, N.C., and the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, allowing the show to report directly from NASCAR’s heartland.

NASCAR America is also available on the NBC Sports app – NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices, tablets, and connected TV’s.

Friday 5: Future NASCAR stars could get their start online instead of on track

Photo by Tom Whitmore/Getty Images for NASCAR
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Is a future Daytona 500 winner competing in a sim race today having yet to drive a real race car?

For as far-fetched as it might seem, it was only five years ago that William Byron — his skills honed online in iRacing events — started driving a Legends car.

Although many of his competitors began racing by the time they were 7 years old (Byron was 15), Byron already has an Xfinity championship and won rookie of the year in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, Camping World Truck and Xfinity Series in each of the past three seasons.

Now the 20-year-old drives the iconic No. 24 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. Some suggest Byron will win a Cup race this year as a rookie.

Byron’s rise leads to the question: Is he the exception or the start of a trend as simulation racing and eSports become more popular to a younger generation?

If Byron succeeds, the search will be on to find someone like him. While many children start racing in karting, Banderlos or quarter midgets, many can’t because their families do not have the means or expertise to compete.

Byron didn’t come from a racing family, so he raced on a computer instead of track as a child.

“iRacing was my chance to really see if I had any ability to drive a car,’’ Byron told NBC Sports. “I think from that standpoint it’s a great starter for understanding if you do have some ability and seeing if that can translate.’’

William Byron at Daytona International Speedway. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

While he admits not everything transferred from the computer to a car, the hours spent racing online helped.

“The biggest thing was learning the restarts and learning being side by side, setting up passes – the technical things that you figure out in a race car, I could figure out on the sim and put that in the race car,’’ Byron said. “Driving on the track by myself, that was natural. But the race craft from iRacing was something that I think helped me get farther ahead quicker.”

In the search for the next great driver, at what point does it make sense for teams or manufacturers to create an iRacing league for specific age groups to see who might have potential similar to Byron and put them in a car to see if their skills carry over?

“That is something that is of interest and something we’ve spent some time on,’’ Jack Irving, director of team and support services for Toyota Racing Development, told NBC Sports. “It’s definitely non-traditional. I think that is evolving, the better the physics are, the better that iRacing becomes and even the home units.

“By no means do we discount iRacing. I think it’s as important as any other form of working out or going to the gym. Obviously, racing is racing, so being put against a bunch of kids on the track, competing against each other, tells you a lot and the ups and downs of it are real. You can’t reset a race track. If you go hit a wall, you’ve got to deal with the feelings of that after.

“The psychological aspect of racing, that’s one thing I think from William’s perspective is he was extremely special from the way his makeup was and how he approaches races and how he approaches competing. If William had a tough race, it was the same William the day after, he was going to build on it and get better.’’

Toyota Racing Development already has created a driver pipeline that has sent Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez to Cup rides at Joe Gibbs Racing and watched as Byron — he drove in the Truck series for Kyle Busch Motorsports — moved to Chevrolet. Toyota has Christopher Bell in the Xfinity Series, Todd Gilliland and Myatt Snider in the Truck Series and Hallie Deegan in the K&N Pro Series West, among others.

For every Jones, Bell or Gilliland, others could be missed because they didn’t have the opportunity to begin racing at an early age.

Before Toyota can do something like that, Irving notes his group needs to understand what to measure and what translates from computers to the track.

“Can we expand it and do more with what we have? Yes,’’ Irving said of its analytics study. “Just getting data has been relatively new to the sport over the last few years. So even kind of dissecting data and how you would traditionally go after athletes at every level, we’re just starting to get over that more and more and we’re continuing to get better at that in the last few years.

“Figuring out the metrics that you’re just rating real racers has been difficult. We’ve spent a fair amount of time the last two years doing that, three years doing that, and evaluating the people that are out there that are currently racing. I think, yes, to touch further backgrounds and to find in deeper regions, (online simulation games) is definitely a tool that can be what the future is.’’

2. Daytona Speedweeks Crash Report

Ninety-five vehicles were involved in accidents in Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck races at Daytona, based on race reports and replays.

Chase Elliott (No. 9), Kasey Kahne (95) and Danica Patrick (7) crash in the Daytona 500. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

That is tied for the second-highest total of vehicles involved in incidents during Daytona Speedweeks since 2013. Those in incidents range from cars destroyed to any that were slightly involved.

The 28 Cup cars involved in accidents in the Daytona 500 was down from last year when 35 cars were listed in incidents. But this year’s total was the second-highest for the Daytona 500 since 2012.

The 63 cars involved in incidents in the Daytona 500 the past two years rank as the highest two-year total in the last 10 Daytona 500s.

Here is how many Cup cars were involved in accidents in the Daytona 500 in recent years:

2018: 28 cars

2017: 35

2016: 11

2015: 18

2014: 25

2013: 18

2012: 23

2011: 29

2010: 17

2009: 15

3. A Good Sign for Austin Dillon?

Only once since 2012 has the Daytona 500 winner not finished in the top 10 in points. That happened last year when Kurt Busch placed 14th.

The last time a Daytona 500 winner also won the championship was 2013 with Jimmie Johnson.

4. Xfinity Series Debuts

John Hunter Nemechek, 20 years old, and Chase Briscoe, 23, each will be making their Xfinity Series debut this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Nemechek will be in the No. 42 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing. Briscoe will drive the No. 60 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing.

5. The Last Word

While Austin Dillon and member’s of his team got tattoos to commemorate Dillon’s Daytona 500 victory last weekend, crew chief Justin Alexander did not do it.

“I said when I win a championship, I’ll get one on my face,’’ Alexander said Monday.

“Everybody document that,’’ Dillon said. “He’s going to get a tattoo on his face (after) a championship.’’

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