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

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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.”

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Daniel Hemric fastest in first Coca-Cola 600 practice

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CONCORD, N.C. — Daniel Hemric was fastest in the first Cup Series practice session for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600.

Hemric posted a top speed of 182.791 mph around Charlotte Motor Speedway.

He was followed by Chase Elliott (182.340 mph), William Byron (182.211), Kyle Busch (182.168) and Jimmie Johnson (182.008).

Alex Bowman was seventh to put all four Hendrick Motorsports cars in the top 10.

Austin Dillon in eighth gave Chevrolet six cars in the top 10.

Landon Cassill recorded the most laps in the session with 37. He was 32nd on the speed chart.

Click here for the speed chart.

Shane Lee to drive for new Xfinity team with Circuit City sponsorship

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CONCORD, N.C. — Former Richard Childress Racing driver Shane Lee will compete for a new Xfinity Series team, H2 Motorsports, the team announced Thursday at Charlotte Motor speedway

Owned by 23-year-old entrepreneur and venture capitalist Matt Hurley, the team will be sponsored by Circuit City and will field Lee in the No. 28 Toyota with support from Toyota Racing Development. They’ll debut June 16 at Iowa Speedway with plans to compete for the rest of the season.

Circuit City, which is primarily an online store now, was notably a sponsor of Hut Stricklin from 1996-98 in the Cup Series.

“I grew up an avid race fan, my parents are from the Midwest and I’ve followed the sport very, very closely since I was a young kid,” Hurley said. “More recently felt like there was an opportunity to go into the sport and bring some of our invested brands back into the sport. I’ve really taken an interest in kind of trying to find a way in.

“We felt like now is the right time to enter the sport, to come in in a competitive way. … Felt like TRD was the right partner to help us do that in a competitive way.”

Lee, 25, competed in the Xfinity Series last year, making 13 starts in RCR’s No. 3 Chevrolet. His best result and only top five was a fourth-place finish at Kansas Speedway in October.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Lee said. “I met Matt at a couple races last year. We actually became pretty good friends and we weren’t really even working on a racing deal. Probably January or February we started talking about the race deal and wanting to get into racing. We sort of went from there and he got himself figured out and he really went down the line and hired some really good people.”

Lee will be paired with crew chief Pete Rondeau. Rondeau has 103 Cup races to his name, including as crew chief for Regan Smith’s 2011 Southern 500 win.

Rondeau also has one Xfinity Series win with Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Bristol in 2004.

“I’ve had a history of accepting challenges,” Rondeau said. “As we did with Furniture Row team, we worked hard and … it ended up flourishing into a championship-caliber team. To me this is no different right here. We have a good core group and I’m happy to work with them. It’s going to be fun and a whole lot of work at the same time.”

Gallery: Coca-Cola 600 patriotic paint schemes

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With Memorial Day weekend here, many NASCAR teams will be racing patriotic paint schemes in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Here’s a look at the unique schemes that will compete in NASCAR’s longest race.

All photos by Daniel McFadin.

Landon Cassill – No. 00 Chevrolet

Brad Keselowski – No. 2 Ford

Ryan Newman – No. 6 Ford

Aric Almirola – No. 10 Ford

Ty Dillon – No. 13 Chevrolet

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – No. 17 Ford

William Byron – No. 24 Chevrolet

Corey LaJoie – No. 32 Ford

 

Michael McDowell – No. 34 Ford

Matt Tifft – No. 36 Ford

David Ragan – No. 36 Ford

Ryan Preece – No. 47 Chevrolet

Jimmie Johnson – No. 48 Chevrolet

Cody Ware – No. 51 Ford

Bayley Currey – No. 52 Ford

BJ McLeod – No. 53 Chevrolet

Alex Bowman – No. 88 Chevrolet

 

Kyle Larson wins Speed 51 Open kart race

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Kyle Larson kept his winning ways going Wednesday night when he won an Outlaw Kart race at Millbridge Speedway in Salisbury, North Carolina.

Four days after his win in the Monster Energy All-Star Race, Larson took the lead on Lap 2 of the 51-lap Speed 51 Open and led the rest of the way.

Larson held off Chase Majdic for the win, his second in the event.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver won despite losing his muffler in the middle of the race and having to replace his left side upper wing earlier in the night after a qualifying event.

Larson has a busy weekend ahead of him with World of Outlaws races at The Dirt Track at Charlotte on Friday and Saturday night, the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday, and the Word of Outlaws’ Memorial Day Classic at Lawrenceburg Speedway in Indiana on Monday.