Matt Kenseth holds off Truex, Edwards to win Sprint Unlimited

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Matt Kenseth, who failed to win any Sprint Cup races in 2014, grabbed the lead on Lap 56 and held on for 18 of the last 19 laps to win Saturday night’s 75-lap Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway.

It was the second straight year that a Joe Gibbs Racing driver won the exhibition, non-points event. Denny Hamlin won the 2014 running.

Kenseth came to JGR from Roush Fenway Racing in 2013 and won seven races en route to second in the Sprint Cup standings. It was the opposite end of the spectrum for him in 2014, as Kenseth went winless in Cup for the first time in four seasons (he did win the Xfinity Series finale).

A two-time Daytona 500 winner, Kenseth won with a speed of 144.204 mph.

“It’s a great feeling, it’s always fun to win at Daytona, it’s fun to win anywhere, it’s been a year,” Kenseth said on Fox Sports.

There were some verbal fireworks after the race between Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano, who made contact on the second-to-last lap. But nothing more transpired between the pair.

Martin Truex Jr., who led after the first 25-lap segment, finished second, followed by Carl Edwards, Casey Mears and Kyle Larson.

Sixth through 10th were Logano, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick.

The last two cars running at the end were Harvick (11th) and Ryan Newman (12th).

Following a three-car wreck between Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart, Kenseth pulled away from the field on the restart with four laps to go.

Truex led the most laps (29), followed by Kenseth (21) and Earnhardt (13). Others who led included Paul Menard (7), Brad Keselowski (2), and three others that led one lap each: Biffle, Harvick and Edwards.

There were four wrecks involving 20 cars:

* On Lap 67, Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart were involved in a heavy wreck that brought out the second red flag of the night.

Looking at a TV replay, Stewart appeared to move up slightly and was tapped by Kyle Busch, sending Stewart spinning. Biffle also went spinning and hit the inside SAFER barrier hard, bounced off, and was struck by Busch’s car.

* The biggest wreck of the night occurred on Lap 46. Jamie McMurray was tapped in the rear by Greg Biffle, who himself may have been tapped in the rear by Joey Logano.

From that point on it was multi-car mayhem as a total of 14 drivers ultimately wound up being involved.

In addition to McMurray, others involved included defending Sprint Cup champ Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, 2014 Sprint Unlimited winner Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart.

The race was red-flagged for 14 minutes, 42 seconds while the track was cleaned. Ironically, the man who started the wreck, Biffle, was scored as the leader when the race resumed.

Biffle told his crew on the team radio that it appeared as if McMurray was loose before the incident, which McMurray somewhat agreed about.

“It was (pretty loose) when he had my back tires off the ground, it’s hard to hang onto it. He was helping me,” McMurray said of Biffle. “It happened two or three times before. It’s just part of it.

“When you get a big run like that, you have to get to the guy and start pushing because if you don’t, you lose all your momentum.”

Surprisingly, McMurray was in good spirits despite the event.

“Everyone was racing real hard tonight,” he said. “It was actually a lot of fun out there. … When Greg got in the back of me, I just couldn’t hang onto it anymore.”

* The first wreck of the night – and the new season – came on Lap 22 when Brad Keselowski made contact with Kyle Larson.

Larson appeared to wash up slightly on the track in front of Keselowski, got into the left front end of the No. 2 and sent him spinning into the infield, up across the track, and then back into the grass.

“No, I didn’t get up too far at all,” Larson said on his team radio when crew chief Chris Heroy asked if he got up too high in front of Keselowski.

“I obviously made contact with the 42 and 22 and I couldn’t tell if somebody made contact with me from behind,” Keselowski told Fox Sports. “I ended up in the grass there.

“When all that happened, it’s not good, it tears up the front end on these cars quick. It’s just part of racing at Daytona. We’ve got a lot of racing left in Speedweeks. This is just a preliminary. We’ll be ready to go when it counts in the 500.”

The entire field missed Keselowski with the exception of Austin Dillon, who couldn’t avoid the former as he spun back onto the infield grass.

While Keselowski was unable to continue, Larson’s and Dillon’s cars both had minimal damage.

Keselowski finished last in the 25-car field, the first time in his career that he has wound up lower than fourth in the Unlimited.

FINAL RESULTS

1 Matt Kenseth

2 Martin Truex Jr.

3 Carl Edwards

4 Casey Mears

5 Kyle Larson

6 Joey Logano

7 Jeff Gordon

8 Kyle Busch

9 Dale Earnhardt Jr.

10 Danica Patrick

11 Kevin Harvick

12 Ryan Newman

13 Tony Stewart

14 Greg Biffle

15 Kurt Busch

16 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

17 Austin Dillon

18 Aric Almirola

19 Denny Hamlin

20 Clint Bowyer

21 Paul Menard

22 Jimmie Johnson

23 Kasey Kahne

24 Jamie McMurray

25 Brad Keselowski

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2021 NASCAR Cup schedule features new tracks, bold changes

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The 2021 Cup schedule features the first race on a dirt track for the series in more than 50 years, three new venues and six road course points races.

Responding to fan interest, the series adds three road course events to the 2021 schedule. Those new races are May 23 at Circuit of the Americas, July 4 at Road America and Aug. 15 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. The other points races on road courses in 2021 will be at Sonoma, Watkins Glen and the Charlotte Roval. The Daytona road course will host the Busch Clash exhibition race.

The race that might gain the most attention, though, could be the March 28 Cup race at Bristol. The track will be converted to dirt.

There are no midweek races. Pocono Raceway continues to have the only doubleheader weekend. There is a two-week break in late July/early August during the Olympics. NBC’s portion of the schedule will begin with the June 20 race at Nashville Superspeedway.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president & chief racing development officer, says the plan is to have practice and qualifying for new venues (Circuit of the Americas, Road America, Nashville) and new configurations (Indy road course) along with key events (Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600 and Phoenix championship weekend). The plan is for the other races to be one-day shows.

The schedule is flush with change. Here’s a look at those changes:

NEW EVENTS

March 28 – Bristol Dirt race: It is the first Cup race on dirt since 1970 at Raleigh, a race won by Richard Petty.

May 9 – Darlington: The track that NASCAR returned to after the season was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic this year will host two races in 2021. The track adds a spring date and it will be run on Mother’s Day. It will be only the third time in the last 40 years Cup has run on Mother’s Day. The added race comes from Michigan International Speedway, which will have one race in 2021.

May 23 – Circuit of the Americas: Inaugural race for the series on the road course in Austin, Texas that has hosted Formula One and IndyCar, among other series.

June 13 – All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway: First time the All-Star race has been held at this track. Marks third different year for the event after being in Charlotte in 2019 and Bristol this year.

June 20 – Nashville: The 1.333-mile track will hold its first race for Cup. The track hosted Xfinity and Truck races from 2001-11. The date comes from a Dover, leaving that race with one NASCAR race weekend in 2021. This weekend begins NBC Sports’ coverage of NASCAR races.

July 4- Road America: Will host the Cup Series for the first time. Gets holiday weekend with July 4 date. The date comes from Chicagoland Speedway, which will not have a NASCAR race in 2021.

July 11 – Atlanta: Kentucky race date moves to Atlanta to give track a second race. The first race at the track in 2021 will be March 21.

Aug. 15 – Indianapolis road course: After comping on the oval since 1994, Cup moves to the road course. Will be a part of a race weekend with the IndyCar Series. 

OTHER DATES OF NOTE

Feb. 21 – Miami: Moves to second race of the season and comes a week after Daytona 500.

Feb. 28 – Auto Club: Moves up a week earlier and this will be its last race as a 2-mile track. Track will be converted into a short track after this event for 2022.

April 10 – Martinsville: Track hosted its first night race in June but did not have fans because of the coronavirus. This April race will be at night. Provided fans will be allowed at that point, it will be their first time to witness a night Cup race there.

July 25 & Aug. 1: No Cup races because of the Olympics. 

Sept. 5 – Nov. 7: Cup playoffs. Same 10 tracks as 2020. Only difference is Texas and Kansas flip-flop weekends in the Round of 8. Texas will open that round on Oct. 17. Kansas will follow on Oct. 24. Round of 8 ends at Martinsville on Oct. 31. Phoenix again will host the title race, doing so Nov. 7.

 

2021 NASCAR CUP SERIES SCHEDULE

(Times, weekend schedule and TV info to be announced later)

 

Date Race / Track
Tuesday, February 9 Clash (Daytona Road Course)
Thursday, February 11 Duel at Daytona
Sunday, February 14 Daytona 500
Sunday, February 21 Homestead-Miami
Sunday, February 28 Auto Club
Sunday, March 7 Las Vegas
Sunday, March 14 Phoenix
Sunday, March 21 Atlanta
Sunday, March 28 Bristol Dirt
Saturday, April 10 Martinsville
Sunday, April 18 Richmond
Sunday, April 25 Talladega
Sunday, May 2 Kansas
Sunday, May 9 Darlington
Sunday, May 16 Dover
Sunday, May 23 COTA
Sunday, May 30 Charlotte
Sunday, June 6 Sonoma
Sunday, June 13 All-Star (Texas)
Sunday, June 20 Nashville Superspeedway
Saturday & Sunday, June 26-27 Pocono Doubleheader
Sunday, July 4 Road America
Sunday, July 11 Atlanta
Sunday, July 18 New Hampshire
Sunday, August 8 Watkins Glen
Sunday, August 15 Indianapolis Road Course
Sunday, August 22 Michigan
Saturday, August 28 Daytona
Sunday, September 5 Darlington
Saturday, September 11 Richmond
Saturday, September 18 Bristol
Sunday, September 26 Las Vegas
Sunday, October 3 Talladega
Sunday, October 10 Charlotte Roval
Sunday, October 17 Texas
Sunday, October 24 Kansas
Sunday, October 31 Martinsville
Sunday, November 7 Phoenix
  • Races in bold are playoff races

 

 

All-Star Race moves to Texas in 2021

All-Star Race
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The All-Star Race moves to Texas Motor Speedway in 2021, marking the third different track the event will held in a three-year period.

The 2021 race will be held June 13, the track announced Wednesday. Eddie Gossage, track president, said the race will be at night. He said he will talk to NASCAR about a format and wants to have fans play a role in the event.

The complete 2021 Cup schedule will be announced Wednesday afternoon by NASCAR.

MORE: COTA to host Cup road course race in 2021

MORE: 2021 Cup schedule features new tracks, bold changes 

The All-Star Race was held from 1985-2019 at Charlotte Motor Speedway except for 1986 when Atlanta Motor Speedway held the race. The event moved to Bristol Motor Speedway in July because of COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings in North Carolina.

Chase Elliott won Bristol All-Star Race.

Texas also announced it will host a NASCAR Camping World Truck race June 11 on All-Star weekend. The Xfinity Series will race June 12.

Texas will remain in the playoffs in 2021. It will host a Cup playoff race Oct. 17. The Xfinity Series will race at Texas on Oct. 16.

NASCAR Cup Series to go dirt trackin’ at Bristol in 2021

Photo: Bristol Motor Speedway
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Cup teams will compete on a dirt track for the first time in more than 50 years when the series races March 28 at Bristol Motor Speedway, the track announced. 

The full Cup schedule is set to be released at 3:30 p.m. ET today.

“Bristol Motor Speedway has hosted many historic events over the years and we will be adding to that resume,” Jerry Caldwell, general manager of Bristol Motor Speedway, said on Wednesday. “We can’t wait to see how the stars of NASCAR take to the dirt.”

MORE: 2021 Cup schedule features new tracks, bold changes 

Said Austin Dillon of the race on dirt: “I’m super pumped. … I’m hoping it becomes a staple.”

Caldwell said the track will work with NASCAR on the race format for the dirt event.

“This is returning to our roots in racing,” Caldwell said. He noted that this concept has been talked about for “awhile.” He also said the track will “explore other options” on any other series that could race on dirt beyond NASCAR.

Caldwell said the change comes from feedback from fans. Marcus Smith, Speedway Motorsports President and CEO, said Wednesday that he pitched the idea of a dirt race at Bristol for the 2020 schedule.

Bristol hosted dirt races in 2000-01 with the World of Outlaws (see video below of 2001 race) and dirt late models. The track used 14,000 truckloads of dirt for the project.

The last Cup race on dirt was Sept. 30, 1970 at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds. Richard Petty won a 200-lap race on the half-mile track. He earned $1,000. Petty was among one of five Hall of Famers in the 23-car field that day. Bobby Isaac finished third, Bobby Allison placed sixth, Benny Parsons was 14th, Wendell Scott placed 20th.

The NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Series raced on dirt at Eldora Speedway from 2013-19. It was not held this year because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Bristol also will host a second race. That event again will be in the playoffs. The Sept. 18 race again will be an elimination race in the first round. The playoff race will be on the concrete track surface.

Road America to host 2021 Cup race on July 4

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Food, fireworks and road course racing will fill the July 4 calendar for NASCAR fans with Road America hosting the Cup series on that holiday weekend in 2021.

The track announced the race date Wednesday. The full Cup schedule is set to be released at 3:30 p.m. ET today.

The 4.048-mile course has hosted Xfinity races since 2010. Among the current Cup drivers who won there in the Xfinity Series are Michael McDowell in 2016 and Christopher Bell in 2019.

MORE: Cup to run on Indy road course in 2021

MORE: Circuit of the Americas to host Cup for first time in 2021

MORE: 2021 Cup schedule features new tracks, bold changes 

The track takes the holiday date that had been held by Daytona International Speedway from 1959-2018 before Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosted the Cup Series that weekend last year.

“We certainly have been working very close with (Road America) not only how we bring this to life but, ultimately, where it was going to be located on the schedule,” Ben Kennedy, NASCAR vice president of racing operations, told NBC Sports, said of adding the Wisconsin track to the schedule. “We started to really toss around the idea of hey, what about July 4th weekend and what would that look like for the track?

“Just even the name, Road America, it feels like Americana and the July 4th weekend and everything. Fireworks, camping and cookout, everything that goes along with it. That track is almost synonymous with it. I think that’s where we really ended up kind of tying Road America to July 4th weekend. Working with NBC on that as well, they are certainly very bullish on it and excited about having Road America on that weekend.”

Tim Flock won the lone Cup race at Road America in 1956. Flock was among nine NASCAR Hall of Famers among the 26 drivers in that race. Others included Fireball Roberts (third), Herb Thomas (sixth), Buck Baker (eighth), Rex White (11th), Lee Petty (13th), Joe Weatherly (20th), Curtis Turner (24th) and Junior Johnson (26th).