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Saturday’s Bristol schedule: 2 Cup practices, Xfinity qualifying and race

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The race weekend at the World’s Fastest Half-Mile — otherwise known as Bristol Motor Speedway — continues today with the final two NASCAR Cup practices, Xfinity qualfiying and the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 Xfinity race.

All times are Eastern

6 a.m. – Xfinity garage opens

7 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. – Cup garage open

8:30 – 9:25 a.m. – Cup practice (FS1)

9:35 a.m. – Xfinity qualifying; multi-car/three rounds (FS1)

10:40 a.m. – Xfinity driver-crew chief meeting

11 – 11:55 a.m. – Final Cup practice (FS1)

12:30 p.m. – Xfinity driver introductions

1 p.m. – Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300; 300 laps/159.9 miles (FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

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To bump-and-run or not to bump-and-run, that is the question

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NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt was the master of it.

Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough did it to each other and they wound up wrecking and then fighting in the infield of the 1979 Daytona 500.

Carl Edwards did it last year to win at Richmond.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. did it to Kyle Busch a few weeks ago at Martinsville.

We’re talking, of course, about one of the most important tools in a driver’s toolbox: the bump-and-run.

Some drivers don’t mind doing it, while others do. Others are willing to use it, but it can be a slippery slope.

During media sessions Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway, several drivers addressed the bump-and-run and their approach to use – or not use – it.

First, let’s hear from Kurt Busch, who falls into the category of someone who will only resort to the bump-and-run as a last resort.

“As long as you don’t put him in the fence or he still continues on to finish second and doesn’t lose too many spots, so to speak,” Busch said. “It’s crazy. We can all go to road courses, which are almost the hottest ticket to get right now – Sonoma and Watkins Glen – because there’s so much beating, banging, thrashing and the way I grew up watching races is that road courses had a little bit more of a gentleman’s agreement, so they flip-flopped.

“And then to your point, a bump-and-run and then the chaos that ensued from everybody talking about was that proper or the etiquette and the way that all even turned out. Just a simple bump-and-run at a short track. I mean, we all grew up with that. It’s just kind of funny how certain things flip-flop and how certain things are digested now.”

Busch added that while the bump-and-run is more acceptable at Sonoma and Watkins Glen, it’s still 50-50 at other tracks.

“It’s been a fun journey on the road courses each year we go on how much is accepted and tolerated, and then as the short track racing has pretty much stayed the same,” Busch said. “As much as we’ve evolved, I like the short-track racing.

“I don’t know when it changed or when that perception swapped around, but everybody’s got stronger opinions nowadays with chat boards and social media, so when you have a motorsports writer talking about a certain event, that’s great. But when you have millions of people talking about it bantering back-and-forth, that’s great as well.”

* Seven-time and defending NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson is definitely not a fan of the bump-and-run.

“I’m so bad with the bump and run it’s a bump and crash,” Johnson said. “I found that for me personally it takes more time to set-up a soft nudge to move someone than it is just to pass them.

“That has just been my style over the years. I am terrible at it. I tried to move Rich Bickle out of the way in 1999 or something at Memphis. I picked his rear tires up and carried him down the straightaway and set him down in time (for him) to crash head-on into the wall in Turn 1.

“I never knew that I picked his tires up off the ground, felt terrible and then unfortunately, when I was shopping the next day for groceries, I saw him in the produce section. I thought that man was going to beat me to death with a head of lettuce and chase me around in the produce section. So, at that point, I figured I just better worry about passing people instead of trying to move them.”

Even with Edwards’ use of it at Richmond and Stenhouse doing so to Kyle Busch, Johnson believes the bump-and-run has become less effective and, in turn, used less by today’s Cup drivers.

“There is definitely less grudges kind of amongst drivers in today’s era,” he said. “Right or wrong, it is just how it is. I think the majority of the reaction was because it was amongst teammates.”

* While Johnson may be a bit more reticent about the bump-and-run, Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott isn’t afraid to put his youth and moxie to the test.

“I think at times, if the situation is right, I think you do have opportunity to move a guy out of the way or do what it takes to try to get by him,” Elliott said. “But in a lot of situations, it’s just easy to make a mistake and wreck people.

“And at the end of the day, I obviously don’t want to make that mistake. So, it’s a fine line. I think Carl did a great job with it at Richmond. He moved (Kyle Busch) out of the way and didn’t wreck him and the guy finished second and he won and went on down the road. So, I think in that situation, no harm no foul.”

So if the situation is right, don’t be surprised if Elliott puts his bumper into someone else’s in Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway if it means a possible win.

“I would, for sure, I mean, why not?” Elliott said. “Carl has won a lot of races. I’ve won zero. I’d love to get one, so absolutely. If the situation is right, I think that’s part of racing.”

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Toyota’s Jones, Joe Gibbs Racing dominate Friday’s lone Bristol Cup practice

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Even though it has struggled in the first seven races of the 2017 NASCAR Cup season, Joe Gibbs Racing showed a lot of its old shine in Friday’s lone practice session at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Toyota dominated by placing five of the six fastest cars in the session. Erik Jones was fastest (127.843 mph), followed by JGR’s Kyle Busch (127.090), Ryan Blaney’s Ford (126.989), Jones’ teammate Martin Truex Jr. (126.964), JGR’s Matt Kenseth (126.704) and teammate Denny Hamlin (126.653).

The fourth JGR entry, the No. 19 of Daniel Suarez, was 27th-fastest (124.930 mph).

Late in the session, Joey Logano brushed the outside retaining wall, suffering minor but repairable damage to the right front fender and wheel well of his No. 22 Team Penske Ford Fusion.

“With all the marbles up there it was like you popped a tire,” Logano said afterward. “It just went straight to the wall. It’s amazing how quick it did that. Unfortunately, we got a little damage but it’s nothing that’s not fixable. … So we’ll fix it up and make some good adjustments.  We’ll be just fine.”

Rain earlier in the day forced NASCAR to push back the session, as well as cancelled qualifying. To make up for that, NASCAR Cup drivers will have two practice sessions Saturday morning prior to the Xfinity Series race at 1 p.m. ET.

Click here for the full practice results.

Chris Buescher crew member on mend after pit road incident at Texas

Photo courtesy Zack Young official Twitter page
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Jackman Zack is on the mend.

Zack Young, jackman for the No. 37 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet of driver Chris Buescher, is doing better after being upended by Buescher’s spinning race car on pit road during Sunday’s race at Texas.

Young released this statement Tuesday to NASCAR Talk:

“Thanks to everyone that’s reached out. Right now, I’m just waiting on results from a MRI of my right hand. I’m fortunate and lucky we have an off weekend to recover.”

Young was fitted for a protective cast over his right hand at the track’s infield care center.

The team said it has no update yet whether Young will be able to be back on pit road for the next NASCAR Cup event, April 23, at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Here’s a tweet Young posted of the incident, as well as a couple of other related tweets:

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A tale of 2 races for Ryan Blaney: 2 stage wins, disappointing 12th-place finish

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He led the most laps, won both stages and dominated the first half of Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

But the second half of the race was a whole other story for Ryan Blaney, who saw hopes for his first career NASCAR Cup win fall by the wayside with a 12th-place finish.

“It’s not where you want to finish,” said Blaney, who led 148 of 334 laps. “We deserved to finish third, at worst. Our car was a third-place car, at worst.”

Blaney added a few moments later about his 61st career Cup race: “I don’t care if we lead just one lap, as long as it’s the last one. We can lead 300-something (laps), but we just weren’t in position to lead the right lap.”

Even though it was his third-best finish of 2017, this arguably was the best race Blaney has run this season.

MORE: Jimmie Johnson Wins O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas for first Cup win of year

MORE: Results, stats for O’Reilly 500 at Texas; Jimmie Johnson scores first win of 2017

MORE: Kyle Larson extends points lead after runner-up finish at Texas

Sure, he finished second at Daytona and ninth at Fontana, but he gained the most points (45) he’s earned in a race Sunday, led laps for only the second time this season (he led  two laps at Daytona) and moved from seventh to sixth in the Cup standings.

Also, Blaney’s 148 laps led were the most by a Wood Brothers Racing driver in a single race since Neil Bonnett led 200 laps en route to a win at Atlanta on Nov. 8, 1981.

“This is the most positive race we’ve ever had as a team, as a whole organization,” Blaney said. “I definitely think this is a big confidence boost for everyone, especially last week after Martinsville and how it ended up (finished 25th).

“This is a big help for everybody; you can’t hold your head down after this one.”

But there is still some disappointment after a bad pit stop late in the race cost Blaney a higher finish. He slid through his pit box by a few inches, then got hemmed in by cars in front (Kevin Harvick) and behind him (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) on pit road.

“That last pit stop was pretty discouraging,” he said. “We got in the back (after winning Stage 2) and couldn’t pass anybody. It was terrible to try to pass people.

“We made our way up to seventh or eight and then pitted, and I got into our box too long, and we were wedged in between two cars. I was over the line by a few inches. That sucked. I put us in that hole. We probably should have stayed out looking back on it, but that is easy to do.”

Like the rest of the NASCAR Cup Series, Blaney will enjoy next weekend off but is looking ahead to the next race at Bristol on April 23.

“I think it says a lot about this Motorcraft Quick Lane team about how good a car we had today,” the third-generation racer said. “If you had asked me yesterday I wouldn’t have said we would win two stages and have one of the fastest cars.

“They made really good changes this morning and that definitely says a lot. I am excited to get to Bristol in a couple weeks and see what we can do.

“I feel like the past couple of weeks, even though we haven’t gotten the finishes we deserved, our cars have been fast. … We’re great in the first half of races, we just have to figure out how to finish them off.”

He also managed to avoid any contact with Dale Earnhardt Jr. after they had collided twice in the previous three races. Junior joked about it on Periscope after the race: “Yeah, we didn’t run into Blaney today! Blaney wasn’t mad at me today! Yeah, we got through this one without a lot of problems.”

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