Clint Bowyer blasts NASCAR after new group qualifying at Daytona begins with multicar wreck


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The debut of Daytona 500 group qualifying endured an inauspicious start Sunday with a five-car crash that involved the Toyotas of Clint Bowyer and Denny Hamlin.

The wreck began when Reed Sorenson tried to block Bowyer. Sorenson’s Chevrolet collided with Bowyer in a pileup that also collected J.J. Yeley, Bobby Labonte and Hamlin (who had posted the fastest lap in the session so far).

Bowyer was upset after the incident, scrambling from his No. 15 Camry and running to Sorenson’s car. As Sorenson unbuckled inside the cockpit, Bowyer screamed and gestured wildly through the window.

He later absolved Sorenson of blame and excoriated NASCAR for the new format.

“It’s idiotic to be out here doing this anyway,” the Michael Waltrip Racing driver said. “There’s no sense of trying to be put on some cute show for whatever the hell this is. Then you’ve got a guy out there in desperation doing this crap. There’s no reason to be out here. These (teams) have spent six months busting their ass on these cars to have some guy out of desperation do that crap.

“But it ain’t (Sorenson’s) fault. It’s NASCAR’s fault for putting us out here in the middle of this crap for nothing. We used to come down here and worry about who was going to sit on the pole for the biggest race of the year. Now all we do is come down here and worry about how a start and park like this out of desperation is going to knock us out of the Daytona 500. We’ve been in meetings for 45 minutes just trying to figure out what everybody has to do to make the race. It’s stupid to be doing this.”

Bowyer isn’t locked into the field of the Great American Race and will need to qualify through Thursday’s Budweiser Duel or risk missing the season opener.

Sorenson, who doesn’t have a backup car for Daytona, apologized for hitting Bowyer.

“I was just trying to block,” Sorenson said. “That’s what got Matt Kenseth the win (in Saturday night’s Sprint Unlimited). I was doing everything I could to stay in front of Clint. Just a product of this qualifying. We’ll try to get a car and get in the race Thursday.”

Qualifying for the Great American Race previously had been determined by single-car qualifying laps. Last season, NASCAR moved to group qualifying. Sprint Cup teams complained last October after a similar debacle in the most recent restrictor-plate qualifying session at Talladega Superspeedway resulted in full-time drivers Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Justin Allgaier missing the race.

“It’s hard to stand behind NASCAR when everybody I talk to up and down pit road doesn’t understand why we’re doing this,” Newman said. “Maybe I need to get sit down and educated about this.

“Not what we wanted for our Caterpillar Chevrolet, no doubt, but we also avoided the next two crashes that come in qualifying, which should never occur.”

Kurt Busch, who finished sixth in the 2014 Indianapolis 500, suggested NASCAR adopt a qualifying format akin to IndyCar’s biggest race.

“We’ve got to find a better system,” Busch said. “So much hard work goes into these cars. Then you have a roulette wheel for qualifying, and it doesn’t seem it’s the proper system.

“We should just (qualify) one car at a time (with a) four-lap average. That would give a sense of pride instead of just shaking up bingo balls.”

Defending series champion Kevin Harvick also failed to advance and expressed his displeasure via Twitter.

As did his teammate Tony Stewart:

Hamlin, whose team managed to fix its damage and advanced to the final session, said group qualifying was “Mayhem. There’s no other word to describe it. Everybody’s on so many different agendas.  This stuff can happen. I don’t know, it’s the format we got to go by.  We’re going to try to do the best we can to play the system, make it work.”


Dale Jr.’s persuasive power impacts chaotic paint scheme poll

Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
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An ordinary Twitter poll on a sleepy Tuesday during the offseason took some wild turns when a Hollywood star, athletes from outside of NASCAR and even the son of the President of the United States, Donald Trump Jr. attempted to sway the results.

The poll told a story of pluck and determination – the potential of a dark horse and a grassroots movement determined to defy the odds.

Ultimately, however, it reminded us of just how persuasive Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s Twitter feed can be.

Tuesday’s matchup featured special paint schemes on Austin Dillon and Matt DiBenedetto‘s cars.

At that point, both teams went to work – appealing to their fans to vote.

Around 4 p.m. ET, heavy hitters weighed in for the fight.

Nashville recording artist Chris Lane and Ian Somerhalder, who played Boone Carlyle on “Lost,” appealed for votes on the Dillon car.

But that wasn’t enough to move the ticker in Dillon’s favor. DiBenedtto led the vote 54 to 46 percent.

Donald Trump Jr. jumped in around 7:30 p.m. garnering 500 retweets and 2,500 likes.

Olympic medalist Chris Mazder and Carolina Panthers star Christian McCaffrey also appealed for Dillon to win. Overnight, the cumulative effect tipped the scale in favor of the No. 3 for a little while.

Dillon led 58 to 42 percent with 7,000 votes cast.

DiBenedetto’s team, GoFas Racing, appealed to dog owners and swung the pendulum back in their favor. Spooky Snoopy led 51 to 49 percent.


Bots! cry RCR.

Dillon tries to fight fire with fire – offering to do an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit if only they will turn on their hero DiBenedetto.

It’s not enough. Dillon is seemingly down for the count.

DiBenedetto appears to be cruising to a 60 – 40 percent victory with 20 minutes remaining in the poll.

Until Earnhardt steps in, that is. After all, Dillon’s paint scheme was a tribute to his father Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s 1995 All-Star car.

Another 6,000 votes are cast in less than two minutes. By the time the polls close, 7,000 more roll in for a total of 24,000. Dillon wins 64 to 36 percent.

By a margin of slightly more than 6,600 votes, this was the most cast in NBC’s paint scheme pole. The second best was DiBenedetto versus Kasey Kahne’s Darlington Throwback in the first round, which received 17,329 votes.

Click here to read Dillon’s AMA on Reddit.

How Dale Earnhardt Jr. helped Jeff Gordon avoid speeding ticket

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The Earnhardt name carries a lot of weight and no one knows that more than Jeff Gordon.

The four-time Cup champion was a guest on Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s podcast on Tuesday and during a Q&A session held on YouTube, Gordon was asked about a run-in with a police officer and Earnhardt being on the Gordon’s phone at the right time.

The incident took place in 2007, very close to when Earnhardt was officially announced as joining Hendrick Motorsports in 2008.

Here’s how Gordon remembers the story:

“Maybe it was the day before it was official, but Rick (Hendrick) told me. … So I was driving to dinner and I (thought), ‘I’m going to call him.’ I didn’t have the hands free setup in the car so I just called him. I’m driving along, on the phone, we’re talking and I’m congratulating you and welcoming you to the team. … All of a sudden I’ve got blue lights in my rear window. I’m like, ‘Uh oh, I’m getting pulled over.’ I wasn’t sure if I should stay on the phone with Dale or not. But I said, ‘No, no. Stay on here, I may need you.’

“Luckily I did, because first the guy says to me, ‘You know you’re not supposed to be on your cell phone?’ Then second, ‘You know you were speeding?’ Then I just said, and I never do this, but I said this is the moment where I got to pull this off. I said, ‘I know and I’m sorry. You don’t happen to be a Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan, are you?’

“He said, ‘Yeah, why? What does that have to do with anything?’ I said, ‘I’ve got him on the phone, I was congratulating him on something.’ He goes, ‘What?’ and I just handed him the phone off and you spoke to him for just two seconds and got me out of it!”

Said Earnhardt, “I was just trying to make a great impression with my new teammate.”

“He made the greatest impression on me!” said Gordon.

Watch the above video for the full Q&A session with Gordon.

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Vote for best 2018 Cup paint schemes

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It’s time to take stock of the 2018 Cup season.

That means voting in the best paint schemes of the year tournament.

Each day for the next few weeks you can vote right here on your favorite scheme that graced the race track.

Today’s matchup: Jimmie Johnson‘s Lowe’s throwback scheme from the season finale vs Kyle Larson‘s Chicagoland scheme.

Jamie McMurray joins Fox Sports as studio analyst

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Jamie McMurray will join Fox Sports as a studio analyst for its NASCAR coverage in 2019, the network announced Wednesday.

He will be a studio analyst on “NASCAR Race Hub” and “NASCAR RaceDay.”

McMurray moves into the role after 16 full-time seasons competing in the Cup Series, the last nine driving the No. 1 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing. He has seven wins, 63 top fives and 168 top-10 finishes since 2002.

McMurray’s transition to television comes after he was replaced in the No. 1 Chevrolet by Kurt Busch.

“As my driving career got closer to the end, I thought about doing TV but wasn’t sure until I did a couple of ‘NASCAR Race Hub’ shows at the end of this year,” McMurray said in a press release. “I really enjoyed it more than I expected. It’s a whole new world, but that’s what I am most excited about – the new challenge and discomfort that comes with doing something completely out of my element.”

Ganassi has offered McMurray the opportunity to compete in the 2019 Daytona 500 in a third Ganassi car.

 and on Facebook