Kevin Harvick wins at Texas, advances to Championship 4; so does Truex

1 Comment

Kevin Harvick took advantage of a Martin Truex Jr. mistake with 10 laps to go, took the lead and held on for the win in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

In earning his first Cup win at Texas, Harvick had been chasing Truex for more than 10 laps when Truex wiggled in Turn 2 on Lap 324. Harvick took the lead and held off Truex the remainder of the way.

“Damn, it’s good to be in victory lane here at Texas,” Harvick said in a fronstretch interview after the race on NBCSN. “I waited until the end and got (Truex) loose.”

By winning, Harvick becomes the second driver to have an automatic berth in the NASCAR Cup championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway in two weeks. Kyle Busch is the other, having won last Sunday at Martinsville.

Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner Tony Stewart is bullish on Harvick’s championship chances, telling NBCSN, “I’ve seen this movie. I know how this one ends. … When we get locked in like that, he rises to the occasion.”

Harvick, who has now won 37 career Cup races, is seeking his second NASCAR Cup title, having won the inaugural title under the new playoff format in 2014.

Even though he failed to win for a seventh time on a 1.5-mile track this season, Truex still leaves Texas a happy man, knowing he has also advanced to the Championship 4 race on points, leaving just one spot remaining to be filled next week in the penultimate race of the season at Phoenix.

“It’s been an awesome season,” Truex said. “I love this team. We’re really excited about Homestead and looking forward to get another win.”

Truex finished second, followed by Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski.

Sixth through 10th were Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, Kurt Busch and Erik Jones.

Harvick led 34 laps, while Truex led the most laps (103).

Stage 2 winner Kyle Larson suffered his third straight DNF, hitting the wall hard on Lap 282, leading to a fire in the rear of his Chevrolet.

Larson was able to get out of the car safely, but the race was put under a 10 minute, 29 second red flag stoppage for track cleanup.

“It’s frustrating because I knew I had the best car,” Larson told NBCSN. “Tried to find some stuff and you get in the wall. … I can’t wait for the last lap at Homestead.”

STAGE WINNERS: Kevin Harvick (Stage 1), Kyle Larson (Stage 2)

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Even though his wiggle 10 laps from the finish cost him the win, Martin Truex Jr. still had a great day, knowing he clinched a spot on points for the championship-deciding race in two weeks at Miami. … One day after announcing he will likely be on hiatus next season, Matt Kenseth finished fourth.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Clint Bowyer’s rough season continued. He finished 38th, seeing his day end after just 202 laps due to apparent gear problems. … Seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson struggled miserably, finishing 27th, three laps behind the leaders.

NOTABLE: Truex’s average in the playoffs is 2.28 (minus his Talladega finish). … Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch were involved in a first-lap crash that put both drivers one lap down of the leaders. But they both battled back through the first two stages, and finished fifth (Keselowski) and 19th (Busch), respectively.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It’s been quite a year. It’s been a lot of work for the guys to get to where we are today. I’m really proud of everybody at Stewart Haas for what we’ve done and hopefully we can do it again in Homestead.” – Race winner Kevin Harvick.

WHAT’S NEXT: Can-Am 500 at Phoenix Raceway; Sunday, Nov. 12, 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Scan All, Xfinity, Truck championship recaps

NBCSN
Leave a comment

Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and continues to recap the end of the NASCAR season.

Carolyn Manno hosts with Parker Kligerman in Stamford, Connecticut. Dale Jarrett, Steve Letarte and Kyle Petty join them from NBC Charlotte.

What to expect from today’s show:

  • Martin Truex Jr. capped off a dream season, earning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship with a victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway. We’ll take a listen back on all the action between the drivers, crew chiefs and spotters with “Scan All: Miami.”
  • This past weekend two other NASCAR titles were decided. Christopher Bell won the Camping World Truck Series title, while William Byron captured the 2017 Xfinity Series title. We’ll discuss the rapid surge of Byron as he prepares for his transition to the Cup Series next year.
  • Furniture Row Racing had a season filled with triumphs and heartache but it ended in celebration, as they won the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship. Martin Truex Jr. dominated all season long while he and his team overcame obstacles on and off the track. Nate Ryan tells their story.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, you can also watch it via the online stream at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Bump & Run: 2017 NASCAR accolades

Getty Images
1 Comment

Who is your driver of the year?

Dustin Long: William Byron. While Martin Truex Jr. had the best season, I’m just amazed at what Byron has done with such little experience. Yes, he’s been in top equipment but he’s still had to wheel the car. What Byron already has done makes me wonder just what is to come.

Jerry Bonkowski: Martin Truex Jr. No other driver came close. One of best feel-good stories in NASCAR since Alan Kulwicki won the Cup championship in 1992.

Daniel McFadin: Martin Truex Jr.. Eight wins, his first Cup title and too many career-best stats to list in the most memorable driver campaign over a full season in recent years.

Nate Ryan: Martin Truex Jr. His 2017 ranks with Jimmie Johnson‘s 2007 as the best season of the 21st century in the Cup Series. From start to finish, it’s the best since Jeff Gordon‘s 1998 masterpiece.

 

Who is your rookie of the year?

Dustin Long: William Byron. See previous answer.

Jerry Bonkowski: William Byron. Has made it look easy thus far in his career. Now comes the real test with his promotion next season to Cup racing and Hendrick Motorsports.

Daniel McFadin: William Byron. Won the Xfinity title with four wins, the most among series regulars and once again proved how quickly he can adept to a new level of racing.

Nate Ryan: William Byron. Shows signs of being the most adaptive and talented driver of his generation. When Kyle Busch is praising your “race craft” at the tender age of 19, you are special.

 

Who is your crew chief of the year?

Dustin Long: Cole Pearn. Was strong throughout the season and finished it with a split-second pit call that put Martin Truex Jr. in position to win the championship and close out a fantastic season.

Jerry Bonkowski: Cole Pearn. Overcame adversity several times, kept his cool most of the time, planned strategy methodically and if he or team made a mistake, admitted it and moved on. I truly believe he and Martin Truex Jr. have another one or two more championships in them. 

Daniel McFadin: Cole Pearn. In the first year of the stage format, he figured it out quicker than anyone and schooled the field all season long with Martin Truex Jr.

Nate Ryan: Cole Pearn. For his mastery of stages alone, he earned this crown. But for many other reasons — from his low-key and unthreatening affability that allows him to work seamlessly with Joe Gibbs Racing with a disarming ease … to his disdain for hierarchy that grants his co-workers empowering autonomy that other crew chiefs refuse to cede … to his simple choice of T-shirt over firesuit (“I don’t plan on getting on fire.”) as anti-establishment crew chief attire — he is changing the paradigm of being a team leader in NASCAR.

 

After seeing this playoff format for the first time, is there anything with it or related to it you’d consider changing for next year? Why?

Dustin Long: I’m fine with how it went. Let’s be careful of changing things for change’s sake.

Jerry Bonkowski: While I like the stages format, I feel that each race should be broken down into three stages of equal length. In other words, if it’s a 267-lap race, it should be divided equally to where each stage is 89 laps. Also, I’d like to see lap counting stop after each of the first two stages and resume on the ensuing restart, unlike what we see now where the second and final stages oftentimes log six or seven laps under caution before a restart for the next stage. 

Daniel McFadin: I like this format immensely after just one season. The only change I would like to see is making sure caution laps after stage conclusions don’t count. Starting a stage with four to five laps already ticked off takes away from the fan experience and gives less race for drivers and teams to work with.

Nate Ryan: A minor quibble: The “format” for selecting a champion didn’t change, just the manner in which points were accrued to determine one. That said, the addition of playoff points and stages worked well, producing the most worthy field of championship contenders yet and a deserving champion whose bona fides were tested as much or more than any other since NASCAR switched to a playoff-style structure in 2004.

Virginia’s Motor Mile Speedway to end short track racing, drops NASCAR sanction

Photo credit: YouTube
Leave a comment

Motor Mile Speedway has decided to not renew its NASCAR sanction for 2018, ending its reign as a circle track.

The .416-mile paved oval track in Fairlawn, Virginia, will undergo a significant transformation starting next year which does not include short track racing. A NASCAR Home Track, it has hosted the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series for a number of years and hosted a number of then-Busch Series races nearly 30 years ago.

While it may return to host some select racing events in the future, track officials in a news release announced it will soon host “a variety of entertainment and sporting events.”

“We have tried to make the speedway successful, but with a downturn in interest, it’s increasingly difficult to make it work,” Speedway co-owner David Hagan said in a media release. “We are looking at a variety of events to bring new life and excitement to the property.

“The schedule could include everything from concerts, mud runs, festivals, camping, and even new racing events at some point.  You name it and it’s probably come up at our table.”

Located about an hour southwest of Roanoke, Virginia, the speedway sits on a 170-acre parcel of land. While the speedway will cease holding races, it’s adjacent drag strip will continue to operate for sportsman racing.

Click here for the full media release from the speedway.

NASCAR issues three lug nut penalties in final penalty report of season

Getty Images
Leave a comment

NASCAR has issued three penalties to crew chiefs for unsecured lug nuts following the championship weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Jason Ratcliff, crew chief on the No. 20 Toyota driven by Matt Kenseth, has been fined $20,000 and suspended one Cup points race for two unsecured lug nuts.

Ratcliff will be moving to the Xfinity Series to serve as Christopher Bell’s crew chief next season. The suspension is series specific. So he will be available to crew chief Bell in the season-opening race at Daytona.

Paul Wolfe, crew chief on Brad Keselowski‘s No. 2 Ford, was fined $10,000 for one unsecured lug nut.

In the Camping World Truck Series, Phil Gould, crew chief on Ryan Truex‘s No. 16 Toyota, was fined $5,000 for an unsecured lug nut.