Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images

Starting grid for the NASCAR Cup Series’ Auto Club 400

1 Comment

With the second pole of his NASCAR Cup Series career, Kyle Larson will lead the field to green Sunday in the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway.

Joining Larson the front row is Denny Hamlin.

Filling out the top five is Brad Keselowski, Martin Treux Jr. and Ryan Newman.

Click here for the starting grid.

Jimmie Johnson’s team elects not to make qualifying run after accident in practice

Leave a comment

Following Jimmie Johnson’s accident in practice early Friday, Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 48 team chose not to qualify with a backup car at Auto Club Speedway.

Johnson, a six-time winner at Auto Club Speedway, will start 37th in Sunday’s Auto Club 400.

Four other cars, including those of Joey Logano and Trevor Bayne, will start in the back after they did not make qualifying attempts. Their cars failed to get through inspection in time. Rookie Gray Gaulding and Matt DiBenedetto also did not qualify because their cars failed to get through inspection.

Johnson explained his team’s decision.

“We had a tough practice session and mid-pack was probably going to be our goal anyway,” he said. “So, to take our lumps here, at a track that’s really wide with a lot of lanes, a long race; we’ll just take our lumps and get the car right where we can take advantage of the precious minutes that we have in Saturday’s practice session and go from there. Pit road is going to be a problem. We’re not going to have a great pick there. We’re definitely not in a position we want to be in, so we’d rather take the time now and make sure we get everything right and get this car right; and also kind of control our risk factor.”

With ACS being such a wide race track with plenty of passing opportunities, Johnson is not in as bad a position to start Sunday’s race as he would be at more narrow track.

Crew chief Chad Knaus told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s Claire B. Lang he wasn’t comfortable forcing Johnson to “hustle” to qualify a car he hadn’t practiced in.

What drivers said after the NASCAR Cup race at Phoenix

Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Here’s what most of the field had to say following the NASCAR Cup Series’ Camping World 500 at Phoenix Raceway, which was won by Ryan Newman.

RYAN NEWMAN – Winner: “I’ve lost count; that’s how long it’s been (since I’ve won). I’ve got to thank Grainger, Caterpillar, Coca-Cola, Monster Energy for supporting our series, and Chevrolet. The list goes on and on.  What a gutsy call by (crew chief) Luke (Lambert). I called for two tires and he called for none. I’ve won more races (with) no tires than I have with four. I’m just proud of these guys. We had a good car all day. We kept it out of trouble and collected in the end.”

Kyle Larson – Finished second: “Like I’ve been saying all of this early year, we’ve never had that speed.  It’s a lot of fun right now.  I’m sure, you know, if I ran second for the next eight weeks, yeah, it’s probably going to grow old.  But, yeah, it’s so cool to be one of the fastest cars every week.  I feel like I’ve got a shot to win every week at a racetrack like here and Vegas where I don’t normally run good, and challenge for wins.”

Kyle Busch – Finished third: “We had a good car and that’s what it takes. When you have a good car you can run up front like that and we kind of missed it a little bit at Atlanta and we rebounded and tried to rebound a little bit at Vegas and had a shot for a top five there, but we weren’t able to capitalize on that, but we were today thankfully. It seems like every finish that’s destined for us it seems to end in a worse finish that day.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Finished fourth: Brian Pattie made a lot of adjustments overnight.  We weren’t that great during practice as far as speed goes.  But I felt our car had good long run speed.  It proved that today.  I was glad we were able to get some long runs there.  Actually, it wasn’t as bad on restarts as I thought we were going to be. There at the end, I thought Brian wanted us to stay out when the caution came out. I kind of second‑guessed him. Then when I told him everybody was coming down pit road, I already kind of committed to stay out and went with his gut instinct, and it paid off.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished fifth: “We ran kind of right in that second to fifth range the whole day. We clawed away. I thought we might have had a shot at getting the win but the 18 car was just a touch better. We were all real close there. Whoever got the track position was going to run away. The clean air was so important which was a bit frustrating. There was a lot of parity today and of course the crazy finish there at the end with the yellow coming out when it did and all the different strategies.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished sixth: “We just didn’t ever get it exactly how we wanted all weekend. Luckily it is a good race track for us and we were able to battle and use all the tricks of the trade we know to get ourselves up in contention. We definitely need to do some work on this style race track with our Jimmy John’s Ford but it was a heck of a battle all day.”

Daniel Suarez – Finished seventh: “It’s a big deal because in the last two races we have struggled. We didn’t have the speed and the communication wasn’t great, but we’ve been working very hard trying to work on chemistry, communication and for sure we’ve been getting better. Yesterday in the last practice, in the happy hour, I felt very good about the car. I feel like we were going to have a shot to have some fun in the race and I wasn’t wrong. The team did a very good job.”

Erik Jones – Finished eighth: “It’s a good day. Your expectations kind of change as the day goes on. When you feel like you have a fifth-place car, you want to run fifth, but it just didn’t work out at the end. We had a lot of guys take two (tires). A lot more than I thought would. A lot more obviously than (crew chief) Chris (Gayle) thought would. We had a great restart and were able to get back up to eighth. Not too much gain, not too much loss. A solid day for us. Definitely the best day overall for the 5-Hour Energy Camry.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished ninth: “There was just a lot of chaos on the last start. No tires won, so certainly a good call on their behalf.  Our own struggles we really lacked short-run speed today, but we had great long-run speed.  The last restart I knew it wasn’t going to be favorable for us and it just didn’t turn out. But a decent performance, probably a top-five car or top-three car on the long run, just lacked too much on the short run.”

Martin Truex Jr. – Finished 11th: “We restarted third at the end, knowing that some of the guys with fresh tires would most likely pass us, but we held off a lot of them too. Had we pitted then we would again have lost a bunch of spots on pit road due to the clutch problem. We had an easy top-10 car and possibly a top five or better Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota, but the issues we faced made it a rough day.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 12th – “Even the really good cars had a really hard time getting to somebody, so track position was big as it always is, every week, everywhere we go and that will continue to be the case throughout the year.  So, if you don’t have it at the end of the race it is going to be an uphill battle I feel like throughout this season.  That is going to be a big trend.  Proud of our group.  We have fired off strong.  We didn’t finish strong today, but I’m happy about how we started the season and the runs we’ve had.  Nice to win a stage and get a point towards the champion this year, which is big.  Those stage wins are going to be really important come time the playoffs start.”

Clint Bowyer – Finished 13th: “It was that kind of weekend for us really. Just a little off all weekend long. We got it better Saturday and I really thought we were going to be alright there but we actually ended up racing the way we struggled all day Friday. We came full circle.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Finished 14th: “We fought the balance of the car quite a bit, but we lost quite a bit of brakes there. We were on the floor on the brake pedal and had to really… just couldn’t run hard, just had to wait. I was having the same problem the No. 22 (Joey Logano) was having. He popped a tire. So, we were just trying not to pop a tire.  Couldn’t run hard there the last probably half of the race just kind of had to sit there and keep the brake pedal from going to the floor.  You could run just hard enough to keep it from overheating the brakes, but you couldn’t really compete like you wanted to.”

Trevor Bayne – Finished 19th: “We fought hard all day. Our AdvoCare Ford was just really tight rolling through the center but my guys worked hard on it all race long and we were able to get a decent finish out of today. (Crew chief) Matt (Puccia) made that two-tire call at the end that really helped us pick up a couple of spots. Now it’s on to California where we hope for another solid run.”

Danica Patrick – Finished 22nd: “The TaxAct Ford started out loose in and tight in the center. It was alright in the middle stages of the race, but in the final segment it just took too long to come in during the runs and we lost a ton of ground. We were able to pick some spots back up late in the run and then it took off pretty good on the last restart. I have to thank the guys for doing a great job in the pits all day.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 23rd: “There was a lot of craziness out there today. I thought our car was okay in the beginning and we were trying to get it better. About halfway through the race our trackbar stopped working, which was bad. That really hurt us. That really hurt from being able to adjust our car throughout the run. That is what we needed. That really sucked when that stopped working. We take for granted those things. Then I sped on pit road and that put us in a bigger hole. We had an issue and then I compounded the issue by speeding and you can’t have that. I made a mistake on that deal.”

JOEY LOGANO – Finished 31st.: “The brakes are fine, we just blew a right front. Probably just overheated the bead. I am sure that is what it was. There is not much you can do when the right front blows out. We had a good car in the beginning of the race and then just fell off and got a pit road speeding penalty and it was hard to get back up there. We were getting closer but out long run speed was off. We have to figure out how to get faster here on the long run.”

David Ragan – Finished 35th: “Really, Trevor Bayne is the one that is kind of to blame. He tried to wreck Danica (Patrick) three of four consecutive laps. He was driving over his head and all over the race track. I was kind of a result of their shenanigans. They were bouncing off each other and I tired to go low and actually made contact with Matt DiBenedetto and had a tire rub and was going to come in that lap. Just cut our tire.”

Matt Kenseth – Finished  37th: “We just blew a front tire. We kind of struggled with our Tide PODS Camry most of the day. We got a little bit better that run, but we weren’t handling the way we needed to for sure and just ended up failing a front tire.”

Cinderella isn’t just for basketball; A look at memorable upset wins in NASCAR

Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images for NASCAR
Leave a comment

Cinderella can be found in any sport, but the notion becomes more prevalent this time of year with the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. With that in mind, who are among the biggest Cinderella winners in NASCAR’s history?

When I posted the question Friday on social media, the responses varied, ranging from Chris Buescher‘s win last year at Pocono to races that dated back to the 1960s.

Well, you’re not going to get everyone to agree but here are five that stand out to me.

 

The 1981 spring Dover race saw a driver, once seven laps behind the leaders, go on to win. Truly a Cinderella moment, but there’s more. It would be Jody Ridley’s only Cup win in 140 career starts. Also, it was car owner Junie Donlavey’s only victory in a NASCAR career that featured 863 starts over 45 years.

So how did it happen? Neil Bonnett dominated in the Wood Brothers’ car until his engine blew while he had a two-lap lead on the field with less than 50 laps left. Cale Yarborough inherited the lead and had a five-lap lead on Ridley but had an engine failure with less than 25 laps left. Ridley assumed the lead and went on to score the victory.

It was about to finally happen. After years of trying, Dale Earnhardt was set to win his first Daytona 500 in 1990. He took the lead after a restart with five laps to go and led going into Turn 3 on the final lap. That’s when everything changed. Earnhardt ran over debris and cut a tire. Derrike Cope, running second, took the lead and went on to win. Not only was it shocking how Cope won but that he was in that position to win. He had never scored a top-five finish in 71 previous Cup starts.

Cope went on to win at Dover later that season. That and the Daytona 500 are the only Cup wins he’s scored in 411 career series starts.

 

Tiny Lund arrived at Daytona in 1963 without a ride. Not a surprise for a driver who had not scored a top-five finish in the 28 Cup races he ran from 1960-62. That changed when Marvin Panch crashed his Maserati on the Daytona road course. The car flipped and burst into flames. Tiny Lund was among those who went to the crash scene and helped pull Panch out of the car. With Panch unable to run in the Daytona 500, the Wood Brothers selected Lund to drive the car. With one less pit stop than others – and running on the same set of tires for 500 miles – Lund scored his first career win in that Daytona 500, shocking the field.

 

Yes, Trevor Bayne led on the final restart of the 2011 Daytona 500 but he had Tony Stewart beside him, Bobby Labonte behind him in the second row and Mark Martin on the outside of the second row. With all that Cup experience surrounding Bayne, who really thought a kid who had turned 20 years old the day before could hold off those drivers and win the Daytona 500? Also, Bayne was making just his second career Cup start and was with the Wood Brothers, who were a part-time team and had last won a Cup race in 2001. All that didn’t matter. He won.

 

Furniture Row Racing was a single-car team. Unlike the majority of Cup teams, it wasn’t based around Charlotte, North Carolina, but in Colorado. Regan Smith was winless in 104 Cup starts before that night, yet he found himself out front after not pitting on Lap 360 of the 367-lap race. Smith held off Carl Edwards to win. It would be four more years until Furniture Row scored its next win.

So, those are five I picked. There were many others to choose from. Some suggested Pete Hamilton’s 1970 win in the Daytona 500. Others noted Lake Speed’s 1988 win at Darlington. There were votes for Brad Keselowki’s win at Talladega in 2009, his first career series win, and for Ron Bouchard (1981), Bobby Hillin Jr. (1986), Phil Parsons (1988) at Talladega. A few people also suggested Casey Mears‘ Coca-Cola win in 2007.

Go ahead and make your case for the biggest Cinderella win in NASCAR’s history.

 and on Facebook

NASCAR America: Cup drivers looking for better results this weekend at Phoenix

Getty Images
Leave a comment

We’re only three races into the NASCAR Cup Series season and it’s clear some teams are struggling more than others.

NASCAR America’s Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte discuss a few of those teams, including JTG Daugherty Racing and Roush Fenway Racing.

Through three races, JTG Daugherty’s two cars of Chris Buescher and AJ Allmendinger are 33rd and 34th in the standings.

Watch the video for all their thoughts.