Jimmie Johnson wins second race in a row, captures Food City 500 at Bristol

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Jimmie Johnson made it two consecutive NASCAR Cup wins, capturing Monday’s weather-delayed Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

It was the 82nd career victory for the seven-time and defending Cup champion, who won two weeks ago at Texas Motor Speedway.

Johnson is one win from tying Cale Yarborough (83 wins, sixth on NASCAR’s all-time wins list) and two away from Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison (tied for fourth with 84 wins each).

“That’s just mind-blowing,” Johnson told Fox Sports. “I wouldn’t be here without (team owner) Mr. (Rick) Hendrick’s support. … It’s been a perfect environment for me.

“(Crew chief) Chad Knaus and this consistent group of guys behind me for all these years has led to the environment to win 82 races, which is just insane. I’m truly humbled, excited to win back-to-back races, excited to win at Bristol, will test the next couple of days at Indianapolis and then try to win again (next weekend) at Richmond.”

It also was just his second victory at Bristol, the previous coming on March 21, 2010.

MORE: Results, stats for Food City 500 at Bristol; Jimmie Johnson scores second consecutive victory

MORE: Dale Earnhardt Jr. drops four spots in the points standings after Bristol crash.

The race originally was scheduled for Sunday but was washed out during a period of 28 consecutive hours of rain in the area.

Clint Bowyer finished second, followed by Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr., Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Denny Hamlin.

Truex’s No. 78 Toyota was found with a right-rear lug nut loose in postrace inspection. Truex also had an unsecured lug nut after the race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, resulting in a $10,000 fine for crew chief Cole Pearn.

Larson won Stage 1 and led the most laps in the entire event (202), and Truex won Stage 2.

MORE: Kyle Larson leads all 125 laps to win Stage 1 of Food City 500 at Bristol.

MORE: Truex wins Stage 2 of Food City 500; Earnhardt’s day ends early with wreck.

Among the significant incidents following the first two stages in the final 250-lap sprint to the checkered flag:

* Brad Keselowski’s string of six consecutive top-six finishes came to an end when he took his car to the garage on Lap 313 because of steering problems.

* On Lap 323, David Ragan tried to split the cars of teammate Landon Cassill and Danica Patrick. Ragan hit Patrick’s car, sending both cars into the wall. Patrick’s day was done.

* Kyle Busch once again suffered problems at Bristol, hitting the wall for a second time in the race on Lap 383, ending his day, too. It is Busch’s fourth DNF in his last five starts at Bristol.

* Erik Jones abruptly slowed likely because of a tire problem, and A.J. Allmendinger was unable to avoid the car, causing damage to his right front and Jones’ left front.

* Kasey Kahne slowed with 38 laps to go, and Paul Menard ran into the back of Kahne’s car, sustaining minor damage to both cars.

HOW JOHNSON WON: Even though he made contact with other drivers a couple of times during the race, Johnson did not sustain much damage. He led a total of 81 laps, taking the lead for good on Lap 479 and sailed on to victory lane.

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD DAY: Clint Bowyer had a season-best second-place finish. It was his first runner-up since April 27, 2013 at Richmond. Bowyer extended his streak of top-11 finishes in his last seven starts. … Matt Kenseth rallied late to finish fourth.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Chris Buescher (contact, finished 39th), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (broken oil cooler after wrecking, 38th), Kyle Busch (wreck, 35th) and Danica Patrick (36th) all had early exits. Keselowski suffered mechanical problems that kept him in the garage for 67 laps (finished 34th).

NOTABLE: Johnson paid homage to Alan Kulwicki, doing a reverse victory lap in honor of the 1992 champion, who was killed in a plane crash near Bristol in April 1993. … Johnson averages one race in every seven starts in his Cup career. … Hendrick Motorsports has 11 wins at Bristol and 247 wins overall.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “There was a wreck, and I was the lucky winner. … It was one thing after another. I had about 30 laps of hope today.” – Danica Patrick, whose day ended early after making contact with David Ragan.

WHAT’S NEXT: Toyota Owners 400, Sunday, April 30, Richmond International Raceway.

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Here are the songs drivers picked for intros at Bristol

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Driver intos at Bristol Motor Speedway often are among the most anticipated all year because drivers get to pick the song to be played for their introduction.

Here is the list of songs drivers selected for today’s driver intros.

(List is based on starting lineup with pole-sitter Kyle Larson listed first)

Kyle Larson                “Hypnotize”                             Notorious B.I.G.

Chase Elliott               “Record Year”                         Eric Church

Martin Truex Jr.          “Flatliner”                                 Cole Swindell ft. Dierks Bentley

Brad Keselowski         “Where Are We Runnin”         Lenny Kravitz

Joey Logano               “Let Me Clear My Throat”       DJ Kool

Ryan Blaney               “Living the Dream”                  Sturgill Simpson

Kyle Busch                 “The Way I Am”                      Eminem

Jamie McMurray         “Thunderstruck”                      AC DC

Clint Bowyer                “How Country Feels”              Randy Houser

Kevin Harvick              “Tip It On Back”                      Dierks Bentley

Jimmie Johnson          “California Love”                     2 Pac

Trevor Bayne               “Run Devil Run”                     Crowder

Ryan Newman             “Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day”          Luke Bryan

Erik Jones                   “Takin’ Care of Business”       Bachman-Turner Overdrive

Kurt Busch                   “Walk This Way”                     Aerosmith

Denny Hamlin               “Jump Man”                            Drake & Future

Kasey Kahne                “Somebody Else Will”             Justin Moore

Aric Almirola                 “Hard Workin’ Man”                Brooks & Dunn

Dale Earnhardt Jr.         “Miles Apart”                           The Dangerous Summery

Austin Dillon                  “Ain’t No Mercy                       Rick Ross

Matt Kenseth                “The Shortest Straw”              Metallica

Daniel Suarez               “El Mariachi Loco”

Ty Dillon                        “No Problem”                          Chance the Rapper

AJ Allmendinger            “My Name is Human”             Highly Suspect

Paul Menard                  “Rockin’ in the Free World”     Neil Young

Chris Buescher              “Heavy is the Head”                Zac Brown Band

Michael McDowell          “Nothing I Can’t Do”                Tedashii feat. Lecrae

Danica Patrick                “Fight Song”                            Rachel Platten

Landon Cassill                “Electric Body”                                    A$AP Rocky

Cole Whitt                       “Believer”                                Imagine Dragons

Matt DiBenedetto            “Dream On”                            Aerosmith

David Ragan                   “Pickup Man”                          Joe Diffie

Corey LaJoie                   “Gimme Some Lovin’”          The Spencer Davis Group

Gray Gaulding                 “JuJu on That Beat”                Zay Hilfigerrr & Zayion McCall

Jeffrey Earnhardt             “Seal the Deal”                        Volbeat

Timmy Hill                        “My House”                             Flo Rida

Derrike Cope                    “Jungle”                                 X Ambassadors

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NASCAR stars spent off week getting in touch with racing roots

Photo: Kyle Larson
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Thanks to comments by Cup driver Kyle Larson and members of the media, there’s been a surge of talk about NASCAR needing to reach grassroots racing fans.

With all of NASCAR enjoying its first full off week, some drivers did their part for the cause last weekend as they fulfilled their need for speed.

Larson himself was one of them, as the Chip Ganassi Racing driver won a Sprint Car Challenge Tour event at Placerville Speedway in California. It was his second race at the 1/4-mile track in the last month. The Cup points leader took his No. 57 car to the lead halfway through the 40-lap race and beat out 15-year-old Giovanni Scelzi according to the Sacramento Bee.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch took his talents to Hickory Motor Speedway in Hickory, North Carolina, for a Super Late Model race.

Busch piloted his No. 51b car in the Easter Bunny 150, but it was a short night for the 2015 Cup champion. Busch’s run ended 15 laps into the 150-lap event due to mechanical problems.

Elsewhere, Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart and Camping World Truck Series driver Christopher Bell competed in Texas.

On Thursday, Kahne started a three-day marathon by finishing 20th in the Gator Outlaw Bash at Gator Motoroplex in Willis, Texas.

The weekend continued with a two-day World of Outlaws event at Devil’s Bowl Speedway in Mesquite, Texas as Kahne was joined by Stewart and Bell.

In Friday’s 25-lap feature, Kahne finished 11th, Stewart placed 14th and Bell finished 18th. Saturday night went about as well for Kahne and Stewart in the 30-lap feature. Kahne finished 16th and Stewart 22nd. Meanwhile, Bell finished fourth as Brad Sweet, a Kasey Kahne Racing driver, won the event.

Aside from Bell and Stewart, these NASCAR drivers will return to their full-time jobs this weekend. The Cup series is back in action at Bristol Motor Speedway for the Food City 500 on Sunday. While Larson leads the points, Busch is seventh and still seeks his first win of the season.

Kahne is 17th in the standings and is trying to earn his first victory since 2014 (Atlanta).

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Monster Energy All-Star Race format to go back to ‘One Hot Night’ roots

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This year’s Monster Energy All-Star race format on May 20 will go back in time.

NASCAR and Charlotte Motor Speedway announced Tuesday that the 25th anniversary of the first All-Star Race held at night will be run with the same format as the first race that was held in 1992.

The “Silver Anniversary Gold Rush” of the iconic “One Hot Night” will once again have a $1 million prize to the winning team.

Here’s how this year’s format shapes up:

  • The race will feature four stages (20 laps / 20 laps / 20 laps / 10 laps), totaling 70 laps, an ode to the 1992 edition of the same distance.
  • The final 10-lap stage will feature just 10 cars/drivers who earned their way into the main event, particularly with how they finished collectively in the prior three 20-lap stages that evening.
  • All three stage winners will be locked into the 10-lap finale for the big prize, but with a caveat – they all must be on the lead lap at the end of the third stage.
  • The cars with the best average finish in the first three stages will make up the remaining spots needed to fill the 10-car final stage.
  • The 10 cars in the fourth and final stage will be lined up by average finish of the first three stages and given the option to pit. Exit off pit road determines starting order for final stage.

“This new 70-lap format pays tribute to the 25th anniversary of ‘One Hot Night’ while pushing the drivers to the brink of insanity with the chances they’ll take to win $1 million,” Charlotte Motor Speedway president and general manager Marcus Smith said in a media release. “I’m as ready as our fans for a May 20 Saturday night shootout where only a daredevil behind the wheel truly has a shot at Victory Lane.”

There’s also one added bonus of sorts: each team will receive one set of “softer tires,” to be used at their discretion. Softer tires provide cars more grip and speed, but there’s one caveat: if a team holds off using its set of softer tires until the final stage, then its car will start the 10-car/10-lap finale at the back of the field.

According to Goodyear, “the Option set-up is projected to be three- to five-tenths of a second faster per lap, out of the box.” Also, instead of Goodyear’s traditional yellow letters – which will remain on the Prime tires to be used in both the All-Star events and the Coca-Cola 600 on May 27 – the Option tires will feature bold, green lettering.

Several drivers have already clinched a starting spot in the All-Star Race based upon:

  • * Drivers who won a points event in either 2016 or 2017.
  • * Drivers who have won a previous Monster Energy All-Star Race and are competing full-time in 2017
  • * Drivers who have won a past Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship and are competing fulltime in 2017.

Those drivers include: Chris Buescher, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr.

 

“The Monster Energy All-Star Race is designed to be fun for fans, showcasing the best drivers and race teams in NASCAR,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “With the effort that Goodyear has put into this race with multiple tire compounds, I am excited to see how the stages play out, especially the final 10-car, 10-lap sprint to the checkered flag.”

Qualifying takes place on Friday, May 19, including the “no speed limit” four-tire pit stop.

According to the media release, “Each team will have three timed laps, one of which will include a mandatory four-tire pit stop with no pit-road speed limits enforced. The five quickest teams will advance to the final round of qualifying to determine starting positions one through five. The team that completes the fastest stop will earn the Pit Crew Competition Award.”

There will be two other ways for drivers to advance to the All-Star Race:

1.) The traditional Monster Energy Open will be held prior to the All-Star Race earlier in the evening of May 20. The Open will feature three stages of 20, 20 and 10 laps. The winner of each stage will advance to the All-Star Race, Qualifying for the Open will take place on Friday, May 19, where the field will be set by two rounds of traditional knock-out qualifying.

2) By winning the popular Fan Vote.

Lastly, both the Monster Energy Open and Monster Energy All-Star Race will be televised on Fox Sports 1 starting at 6 p.m. ET on May 20. The Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90 will carry the radio broadcasts of both events, as well.

Here’s a list of all winners of the All-Star Race, dating back to its inception in 1985:

1985 Darrell Waltrip
1986 Bill Elliott
1987 Dale Earnhardt
1988 Terry Labonte
1989 Rusty Wallace
1990 Dale Earnhardt
1991 Davey Allison
1992 Davey Allison (first night race)
1993 Dale Earnhardt
1994 Geoffrey Bodine
1995 Jeff Gordon
1996 Michael Waltrip
1997 Jeff Gordon
1998 Mark Martin
1999 Terry Labonte
2000 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2001 Jeff Gordon
2002 Ryan Newman
2003 Jimmie Johnson
2004 Matt Kenseth
2005 Mark Martin
2006 Jimmie Johnson
2007 Kevin Harvick
2008 Kasey Kahne
2009 Tony Stewart
2010 Kurt Busch
2011 Carl Edwards
2012 Jimmie Johnson
2013 Jimmie Johnson
2014 Jamie McMurray
2015 Denny Hamlin
2016 Joey Logano

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Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott lead playoff standings going into Easter break

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After seven races, we’ve reached the first off-week of the NASCAR Cup Series schedule.

Teams will resume the long haul of the season April 23 at Bristol Motor Speedway (with only one more weekend break in late August through the Nov. 19 finale at Miami).

With that in mind, here’s a look at the playoff standings following Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway:

Only 16 drivers will qualify for the playoffs, which will begin Sept. 17 at Chicagoland Speedway.

Kyle Larson, who has one win and four runner-up finishes, leads the standings over Chase Elliott, who is the only driver ranked in the top four who hasn’t won this season.

Denny Hamlin is currently on the bubble, 164 points back from Larson.

The first four behind Hamlin are Kasey Kahne, Aric Almirola, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch have race wins but no stage wins.

Elliott, Ryan Blaney and Kevin Harvick have multiple stage wins but no race wins.

Below is the top 20 in standings through seven races. Drivers in green would make the playoffs based on wins, drivers in yellow would based on points.

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