Chase Elliott left lamenting lapped traffic: ‘I gave it away’

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DOVER, Delaware – With more victory-snatching misery to digest, Chase Elliott at least had some company to absorb it Sunday at Dover International Speedway.

After losing the lead to winner Kyle Busch with just more than a lap remaining, Elliott parked his No. 24 Chevrolet in the pits, removed his helmet and held his head in his hands for a minute before climbing out.

He immediately was intercepted by Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson (who finished third). The seven-time champion leaned against the car and … listened.

“I knew I couldn’t make him feel any better,” said Johnson, soon joined by teammate Kasey Kahne  (who patted Elliott on the shoulder, too). “I just wanted to check on him and turn him around where people couldn’t see his face and let him get those few first words and sentences out.

“I anticipated them being cuss words, and they were. So just trying to be there for him, let him vent, let him get those first few sentences out. I just know from my own experience it’s just nice to kind of vent and get through that.”

Unfortunately, the agony wasn’t quite over for Elliott, whose conversation with the teammates was interrupted by Busch driving past on the banking about 50 feet away, checkered flag flapping out the window.

“I gave it away,” said Elliott, who has had numerous opportunities for his first victory slip away over the past two seasons. “I appreciate my team and their efforts today. The pit stops were great and they kept us in the ballgame. I didn’t.”

The finish essentially came down to traffic, which Elliott had difficulty navigating (in particular the No. 31 Chevrolet of Ryan Newman, who had a confrontation with Jeff Gordon about the role he played).

Elliott was left second-guessing himself about being more aggressive with his approach.

“I thought if I had a clean track, I could have run as fast as (Busch) did, but I didn’t, and I should have done something different,” he said. “So that’s just on me, and he did a better job than I did. At the end of the day that’s what it comes down to.”

Said Busch: “The only thing Chase could have done differently was just moved around and tried to get out of the wake of the cars that were in front of him. I was actually surprised he didn’t. He kept running the bottom behind those guys, and the bottom was what got him there for that point in the day. He was good down there all day long, but he was just getting slowed down too much by the air and everything in front of him.

“He could have just tried to blitz them on the top and get around them sooner, but other than that, I think he was just so focused on what he had all day long, making the bottom work, that he just stuck with it. When you have been leading for that long, and you’ve lost that amount of distance to the car behind you, you’ve got to move around.  You can’t give up four seconds of the lead and not do something else.  I feel like that’s kind of where they lost it today.“

Johnson said it made sense for Elliott to commit to running the bottom of the one-mile oval because “that is where 90 some percent of these races have been won, if not 95 or more.  I think there was some cars fighting to stay on the lead lap that really, I think, hurt the performance of his car.”

There was some consolation for Elliott and Johnson, who finished in the top five together for the first time in nearly four months (since the June 4 race at Dover). Johnson believes that Hendrick is closing the gap on the Toyotas of Joe Gibbs Racing and Martin Truex Jr., though Elliott was understandably less enthused.

“Yeah, I mean, I hope so,” Elliott said. “I hope. I mean, I don’t know. If I knew the future, I’d go lay some money down in Vegas or something, but I don’t know. So we’ll see.”

Johnson believes his teammate “is going to be a factor” at Charlotte Motor Speedway next week.

“Man, I feel for him,” Johnson said. “I don’t think you can say anything now to make it better. As we get closer to next weekend, the sting will subside, but right now, they’re racers. It’s going to hurt. That’s going to sting. We all know that 24 car is going to win a lot of races soon, and I feel for those guys.”

 

AJ Allmendinger making return to Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2018

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After a one-year absence, AJ Allmendinger will return to the Rolex 24 at Daytona next month.

Allmendinger, who drives for JTG Daugherty Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series, will once again drive for Michael Shank Racing in the endurance race at Daytona International Speedway, which will be held Jan. 27 – 28.

A winner in the 2012 Rolex 24 at Daytona, Allmendinger will split time in the No. 93 Acura NSX GT3 in the GTD class with Justin Marks, Lawson Aschenbach and Mario Farnbacher.

Allmendinger drove for Michael Shank Racing in the endurance race from 2014-16. His best result during that stretch was fifth in the Prototype class in 2015.

“I am pumped to be back racing for Shank in the (Rolex) 24. I missed the race last year and I hated to, so I’m really glad to be back,” Allmendinger said in a press release. “His whole team did an awesome job with the Acura last year and it is awesome to be back with him for the Rolex. After racing for the overall win so many years in Prototypes, it will be a completely different experience to be racing in the GTD class, but I’m looking forward to it. Mike (Shank) always puts an awesome team together and this year is no different so I am counting down to get my first shot in this car.”

Allmendinger is coming off his fourth full year of driving the No. 47 Chevrolet for JTG Daugherty Racing. He finished the season 27th in the standings, his worst during his tenure with the team. He earned one top five and five top 10s.

Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s to sponsor RCR in Cup, Xfinity in 2018

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Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s will sponsor Richard Childress Racing in multiple races in the Cup and Xfinity Series next year, the team announced Monday.

Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s merged in September 2017.

The outdoors brands will be on Ryan Newman‘s No. 31 Chevrolet during the 60th Daytona 500 on Feb. 18 and in several other races during the season.

Richard Childress Racing

They will also be a primary sponsor for Austin and Ty Dillon on the No. 3 Chevrolet in the Xfinity Series for several races.

“Our relationship with Bass Pro Shops dates back to the mid-1990s and we’re thrilled to be able to continue it during the 2018 season,” team owner Richard Childress said in a press release. “Austin, Ty and Ryan are terrific ambassadors for the great outdoors. They are all passionate about our hunting, fishing and conservation heritage which has made this partnership thrive.

“Next season will be exciting as we welcome Cabela’s, the iconic outdoor brand acquired by Bass Pro Shops, to the RCR family.”

Bass Pro Shops, founded in 1972 by Johnny Morris, is also a primary sponsor of Martin Truex Jr.’s No. 78 Toyota owned by Furniture Row Racing.

The store chain will be on the hood of the No. 78 in 16 races and on the sides of it in 14 others.

Here’s the eligible drivers for the 2018 Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona

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NASCAR has officially announced the 20 drivers who are eligible to take part in the Cup Series’ season-opening Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona International Speedway.

The 75-lap exhibition event is set for 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, Feb. 11, the same day as qualifying for the Feb. 18 Daytona 500.

The race will be divided into two segments. A competition caution on Lap 25 will divide them.

Drivers become eligible for the Clash by winning a pole the previous season, being a Daytona 500 pole-winner who competed full-time the previous season or being a playoff driver the previous season.

Here are the eligible drivers.

2017 Coors Light Pole Award Winners (14)

Former Daytona 500 Coors Light Pole Award Winners (3)

2017 Playoff Drivers (3)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth are not expected to compete in the race. Earnhardt retired from Cup competition following the 2017 season and Kenseth doesn’t have a ride for the 2018 season.

Danica Patrick, the 2013 Daytona 500 pole-sitter, announced last month she was done as a full-time driver but that she planned to race in the Daytona 500. No definitive team plans have been announced for her.

NASCAR Hall of Famer Jack Ingram injury update: still in ICU, but continues to show progress

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NASCAR Hall of Famer Jack Ingram continues to show improvement from the serious injuries he suffered in a December 3 car crash in his native Asheville, North Carolina.

In an update Sunday written on CaringBridge.org, Ingram’s daughter, Ingrid Jones, said her father remains in the Intensive Care Unit at Asheville’s Mission Hospital.

According to Jones:

“Daddy continues to hold his own, making healing steps forward and then a step back, which we fully expected-but he’s surprising us each and every day with his strength and courage to overcome this. Overall, he’s doing amazingly well.”

Ingram’s family had hoped he could have moved out of ICU and into the Trauma Unit as the next phase of his recovery, but he remains in intensive care.

Said Jones:

“For now, he’ll remain in ICU until he can go a full 24 hours without ventilator assisted breathing. We’re almost there … but may still be a few days.”

Ingram, who turns 81 on Dec. 28, was able to sit in a chair and watched part of Sunday’s NFL game between the Carolina Panthers and Minnesota Vikings with his family. Jones wrote that Ingram also was surprised to learn that the mountain near the family’s Asheville-area home received a total of 16 inches of snow Friday and Saturday.

Jones added, “We continue to be optimistic for his health, and we also continue to appreciate the prayers and encouraging thoughts.”