Freak accident eliminates Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski early in the Coca-Cola 600

Leave a comment

CONCORD, N.C. – Chase Elliott and Brad Keselowski were eliminated from the Coca-Cola 600 in a bizarre accident that caused a caution on the 20th of 400 laps Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Jeffrey Earnhardt’s No. 33 Chevrolet suffered an engine problem that littered the 1.5-mile oval with oil and some debris. Elliott’s No. 24 Chevy seemed to run over a stray part, sparking flames beneath the car.

As Elliott quickly slowed, he was rear-ended by Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford.

“Somebody broke, and there was just oil everywhere,” Keselowski said. “I couldn’t turn. I ran into the back of Chase. It’s a real bummer for our team. We had a really fast Miller Lite Ford, and I think we had a shot at winning tonight, but that’s how it goes.”

Said Elliott: “This is so disappointing. Our Chevy was going to be all right as the night went along. But (Jeffrey Earnhardt) broke something, I guess, and I hit it hard and I saw some fire … I hate it. It’s such a bummer. We’ll just go after it again next week.”

Earnhardt was listed as finishing last in the race; Keselowski likely will place 39th, and Elliott 38th.

 

Roller coasters, bicycling & softball: How drivers spent their day off

Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images
Leave a comment

With no track activity, NASCAR Cup drivers had a free day on Friday and some were able to get out and about.

Jimmie Johnson helped organize a 69-mile bike ride Friday morning for 2006 MotoGP world champion Nicky Hayden, who died May 22 at age 35 from injures suffered when he was hit by a car while cycling in Italy. The 69 miles ridden were for the number Hayden raced with in his career. Among drivers who joined him were Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Chase Elliott and Daniel Suarez.

 

Others did other activities on their day off.

Ryan Blaney went to Carowinds amusement park just south of Charlotte, North Carolina, and took to periscope as he rode in the front row on the Fury 325 roller coaster, which reaches a peak height of 325 feet and then goes into an 81-degree drop.

The ride reaches speeds up to 95 mph. The coaster is North America’s longest steel coaster at 1.25 miles. The average ride time is 3 minutes, 25 seconds, and the ride crosses both the North Carolina and South Carolina border.

Brad Keselowski spent part of his team playing in the Team Penske softball game and provided proof of his hitting ability.

 and on Facebook

Coca-Cola 600 starting lineup

Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

CONCORD, N.C. — Kevin Harvick will start on the pole for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, marking the second consecutive race at Charlotte Motor Speedway he has led the field to the green flag.

Harvick, a two-time Coke 600 winner, earned the top starting spot Thursday night with a lap of 193.424 mph in his Ford. He’ll be joined on the front row by Kyle Busch, who won last weekend’s All-Star Race.

Chase Elliott starts third and is followed by Matt Kenseth and rookie Erik Jones.

Points leader Kyle Larson will start 39th in the 40-car field after not making a qualifying attempt. He hit the wall in practice and then his team couldn’t get through qualifying inspection until one minute remained in the opening round of the session. The team was unable to get Larson out of the garage in time to make an attempt.

Click here for Coca-Cola 600 starting lineup

Bump & Run: Should some Cup races have more points than others?

Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images
2 Comments

Parker Kligerman and Steve Letarte, who will be on today’s NASCAR America from 5:30 – 7 p.m ET, joins Nate Ryan and Dustin Long to answer this week’s questions.

With a maximum 70 points and eight playoff points available for this weekend’s Coca-Cola 600, should NASCAR look at some of its top-tier races having more points than most races next year? If so, what races should those be?

Parker Kligerman: I am torn here, as I understand the reasoning. I understand the intention. My problem is that the sport has already added numerous changes to the points structure this year with the addition of stages and playoff points. Now making a race worth more just because it is longer doesn’t work for me. In an era of NASCAR, in which I applaud them for being so open and progressive, I fear this is where I draw the line. This race should not have four stages and should not be worth more points. 

For example, in the IndyCar Series, they made the Indy 500 a double points event in addition to having almost a full race worth of points up for grabs in qualifying. Therefore, a bad two days in Indy could effectively end your championship hopes, which makes no sense to me. Why should one race be able to make or break an entire year-long championship? 

I know this is not the case in NASCAR, but it reinforces my point. No single race should have a larger impact on a championship than the other when it comes to a points value. 

Steve Letarte: I will go on record as saying that I was not a fan of an added stage for the 600 for the simple fact it wasn’t added in January. I think we need to stop changing. I think we have generated stage racing and it has been a great improvement. I do think the 600 needed another stage, just not this year. I really think we should have run an entire season and then evaluated it. The 600 perhaps could get an extra stage. The Daytona 500 could get an extra stage. The Brickyard, while it’s not a 500, another stage probably wouldn’t hurt that. I do think the night race at Bristol.

Nate Ryan: I think the Daytona 500 certainly will get consideration for extra stage points, and it should. The Southern 500 and the night race at Bristol also should be on this list. (This also would be a very good idea if it coincided with shortening other races on the schedule.)

Dustin Long: Yes. The Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600, Southern 500 and Martinsville spring race (since the other is in the playoffs) should have more points than other races. That is a restrictor-plate track, 1.5-mile track,. 1.366-mile track and a short track. Instead of adding extra stages for some of those races, NASCAR could make stage wins worth 15 points instead of 10 points.

Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer are in the top 10 in the season standings but have yet to score a points victory. Who will be the first among that group to win?

Parker Kligerman: It is easy to immediately gravitate toward the most recent winner in the series, being Kyle Busch at the All-Star Race. But I wouldn’t be so quick to count out Kevin Harvick and the No. 4 team. They seem to be good in the speed department and, therefore, just need to execute. Lastly, Chase Elliott has to be thinking that surely there is a victory lane reserved for him in the near future, as it just seems absurd he has not won a race yet. My pick is Kevin Harvick. 

Steve Letarte: I think it’s a tossup between Kyle Busch and Kevin Harivck. I think that they have moments of brilliance between the two of them. Kevin Harvick, in my mind, he won at Atlanta. He did everything he was supposed to do but win the race. Kyle Busch has had the same sort of thing with untimely cautions. I think it’s between Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch, but I will say that the entire list will win before the season is out.’’

Nate Ryan: Kyle Busch seems ready to score the breakthrough for Joe Gibbs Racing, and Kevin Harvick would be next on the list. I think there’s a good chance that any of those on the list could win Sunday. In the past three years, the Coca-Cola 600 has been the winner’s first victory of the season.

Dustin Long: Kevin Harvick has four top-five finishes in the last five points races, signs that his Stewart-Haas Racing has gotten past many of the issues with switching to Ford. It’s time for this team to win and it will soon.

The 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame Class will be selected this week. Name two nominees you think deserve to be in this class and why. 

Parker Kligerman: On NASCAR America a couple weeks ago, Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett made a case for Robert Yates to be inducted into the Hall of Fame this year. And it made me realize he was right. When you break the sport down, the most important part of a motor vehicle is the engine, it is what makes it a motorized vehicle. So when you look at the importance of engines in this sport, you must look at the people who made those engines a reality. Therefore my first pick goes to a man who at times pushed the limits of what many people thought to be physically possible with a pushrod V8 – Robert Yates. 

My second pick goes to an absolute legend – Red Byron. Not only was he the NASCAR Cup Series’ first champion but a WWII veteran as well. His B-24 plane was shot at and he injured his left leg. But this wouldn’t be enough to hold him back from racing, where he pushed and pushed to find a way to be able to retrofit the car for his injury. He succeeded and became a champion. A veteran, a champion, a never give up attitude. What more could you want from a Hall of Famer? 

Steve Letarte: This is the easiest question every year until this year. Every year I see the class, there are two or three names that jump out to me as guarantees. When I look at this year, I see a class of Hall of Fame worthy nominees, all that I feel will end up in the Hall of Fame, but in what order should they go? I’m glad I’m not in that room. I could make a case for Davey Allison, but you have to argue what could have been. I can make the argument for Ray Evernham. I can make an argument for Red Farmer, Ray Fox, Ken Squier, Robert Yates. The list goes on and on.

Nate Ryan: The first two on my ballot will be Ray Evernham, whose influence and innovations as a crew chief are nonpareil, and Red Byron, who should be in by virtue of being the first premier series champion.

Dustin Long: Ray Evernham was a game changer. The garage often had to respond to what Evernham did, whether it was with the pit crew, strategy or what he did to the car. Robert Yates was one of the premier engine builders who also went on to have success as a car owner. His success in two disciplines and how the engine company that has his name on it remains powerful, shows his impact even today.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s playoff chances may rely on if he can win a race

Getty Images
1 Comment

CONCORD, N.C. — Even with 15 races remaining before the playoffs begin, car owner Rick Hendrick says he thinks Dale Earnhardt Jr. will have to win a race if the retiring driver hopes to have one last shot at a Cup championship.

Earnhardt is 25th in the points heading into this weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He’s 77 points behind Trevor Bayne, who holds the final playoff spot at this time. Drivers can earn up to 70 points this weekend with an extra stage. The maximum number of points is 60 for all other Cup races.

A win before the playoffs begin in September grants a driver, who starts every race, a chance to compete for the title. If there aren’t 16 winners by then, the rest of the playoff field is filled based on points.

Through the first 11 races, eight different drivers have won at least once. Martin Truex Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski each have two wins, while five others have single victories: Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ryan Newman and Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch.

Stage points could play a key role in who fills the final playoff spots and that might not be good for Earnhardt. He has 19 stage points (teammate Chase Elliott has 94) but none in the last four races.

“I think we’ve got to win now,’’ Hendrick said last week. “A lot of people can start having problems. We’ve got to do the best we can and let it take care of itself. The cars are fast enough to win. I’m hopeful we can pull it off.’’

Said Earnhardt: “That makes it a lot easier when the boss man tells you what you’ve got to do.’’

Earnhardt wasn’t as confident after Saturday night’s All-Star Race. He finished 18th in the 20-car field and apologized to fans on Periscope after the race.

“It’s hard not to get down,” Earnhardt said. “I’ve been racing a long time and it’s hard not to get down. Right after that, it’s hard to keep your chin up, really hard. I’ll get my chin up again in a couple days.’’

That’s kind of how his season has been.

He was leading the Daytona 500 when Kyle Busch’s tire blew and Busch wrecked in front of Earnhardt, collecting him. Earnhardt finished 37th.

A pit road speeding penalty, flat tire and loose wheel contributed to a 30th-place finish at Atlanta.

A pit road speeding penalty dropped him to the rear at Martinsville and then he was collected in a crash. He finished 34th.

An oil cooler issue contributed to his crash at Bristol and a 38th-place finish.

Teammate Jimmie Johnson didn’t know Earnhardt was to his outside and slammed him into the wall at Richmond. Earnhardt finished 30th

A loose wheel forced him to pit late at Talladega. He finished 22nd.

He thought he had a loose wheel and pitted late at Kansas, giving up a top-10 spot. He finished 20th.

“I just know that in our notes over the last four years there we have tires that shake,’’ Earnhardt said. “Why there and why not other places? Don’t know. But at Kansas every third set might shake. It’s just something that I needed to remember before the race so when that happened, I didn’t freak out because we’ve had so many loose wheels so it’s in the back of my mind.

“I jumped the gun. It was my mistake. Full responsibility for costing us a lap and whatever else it costs us. Could have finished in the top 10. Car was real fast. It’s frustrating. If I had just talked to myself and said, ‘Be aware of those vibrations, it’s just what you have at that particular racetrack for some reason,’ then I might not have been so quick to jump on the loose wheel bandwagon like I was.’’

Even before the poor run in the All-Star Race, Hendrick said the team shouldn’t be overcome with dread.

“We just have to take a deep breath and do what we know how to do,’’ Hendrick said.

 and on Facebook