In a show of Hendrick Motorsports muscle, Jimmie Johnson held off a strong last-lap charge by Kevin Harvick to win Saturday night’s SpongeBob SquarePants 400 at Kansas Speedway.
Harvick finished second, followed by two other HMS drivers, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon, as well as pole-sitter Joey Logano.
It was Johnson’s 73rd career win and third of the season. He also set a NASCAR record by recording his 23rd career victory on a 1.-5 mile track. It was also Johnson’s third career win at Kansas Speedway, tying him with Gordon for most wins there.
The key for the HMS onslaught was all three drivers (along with Kurt Busch) not pitting during the final caution of the race after Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wrecked with 12 laps left. The track position they maintained was the difference in allowing the three HMS drivers to finish in the top-5.
Finishing sixth through 10th were Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Newman.
How Johnson won: With 12 laps left, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. blew a tire and wrecked. Johnson, Earnhardt Jr., Gordon and Kurt Busch all decided to stay out on track, while the majority of the other leaders came in for fuel and at least two tires, except for Truex, who came in just for fuel. That was the difference in the race. Johnson led just the final 10 laps of the 267-lap event. “It was a long hard night of racing and fighting for track position,” Johnson said. “Once we got up front, we were able to hang on for the final eight or nine laps, whatever it was.”
Who else had a good day: Martin Truex Jr. appeared headed for his first win of the season, leading a race-high 95 laps, but after pitting for fuel following Stenhouse’s wreck (did not take tires), trailed back in the closing laps. Still, he wound up with a top-10 finish (9th). “I hate fuel mileage racing,” Truex said. “Because of that, I’ve never come out once in my career on the right side of one of these deals. … We’re going to get one (win). We just need to keep digging.” … Other strong efforts came from Matt Kenseth (6th), Busch (8th) and Sam Hornish Jr. (16th), in his first race with new crew chief Kevin Manion.
Who had a bad day: Wrecks left Tony Stewart (39th), Erik Jones (40th) and Denny Hamlin (41st). Jones was making his Sprint Cup debut and drove smart until he lost control of his car and wrecked, ending his day early. Meanwhile, Stewart’s horrible season continues. … In his debut for Michael Waltrip Racing, David Ragan also was involved in a wreck that left him with a 33rd place finish.
Notables: Carl Edwards led 12 laps but couldn’t get quite enough forward drive, ending up 20th. … Brad Keselowski led 43 laps and at one point appeared poised to make it a 1-2 finish with teammate Joey Logano, but pitting on the final caution pushed Keselowski back to his eventual 7th place finish. Speaking of Logano, he led 29 laps. … The race was delayed by 2 hours, 16 minutes due to rain that started falling, bringing out a red flag race stoppage after the first 98 laps.
Quote of the day: “They didn’t throw a caution until like seven seconds after I wrecked. Luckily, nobody hit us in the door.” – Denny Hamlin, unhappy that it took NASCAR so long to throw a caution after his spin and wreck on Lap 208. Hamlin wrecked hard and his car suffered major damage.
What’s next: May 16, 7 pm ET, Sprint All-Star Race (non-points race), Charlotte Motor Speedway. The next points-paying race is the Coca-Cola 600, May 24, 6 pm ET, also at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Tony Stewart was in a “virtual black hole of cell signal” in Waverly, Ohio, last Saturday when Clint Bowyer ran to Ryan Newman‘s car after the All-Star Race and threw punches in his driver-side window.
Stewart, who was competing in and won a sprint car race at Atomic Speedway, was ignorant of this fact until he was miles away from the track and had a better cell signal.
“I got five miles down the road and all of a sudden I’m getting all these texts,” Stewart said Wednesday after being elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. “I’m going, ‘How do all these people know we won that fast?’ It wasn’t about us, it was about Clint’s deal. Finally got another five miles down the road, had a real signal. Somebody goes ‘Look at Twitter.”
That’s when the co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing saw the video of Bowyer, still wearing his helmet, furiously throwing both fists at Newman, who still sat in his car.
Bowyer was angry with Newman after contact between them on the cool-down lap after the race had sent Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford nose-first into the wall.
“That kid has got to take his helmet off if he’s going to fight,” Stewart said. “Kids leave their helmets on to fight. Men take their helmets off and they fight. If you’re going to fight, fight.”
While still on the highway Saturday night, Stewart let Bowyer know his thoughts on his fighting form.
“Listen, take your helmet off if you’re going to get into a fight,” Stewart texted Bowyer.
Bowyer responded by saying “I didn’t have time.”
Stewart, who has a long history of driver altercations and arguments, then offered his driver more encouraging wisdom.
“Don’t lose that passion to fight for what you believe in,” Stewart said.
Social media quickly rose to congratulate the five men named Wednesday to the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2020: Tony Stewart, Buddy Baker, Joe Gibbs, Bobby Labonte and Waddell Wilson.
Here are some of the more noteworthy posts from Twitter:
Nate Ryan cast a ballot Wednesday for the NASCAR Hall of Fame as NBC Sports’ digital representative.
It’s the 11th consecutive year of voting for Ryan, who is one of 59 members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame voting panel (including one online vote determined by fans; two voters, Ricky Rudd and Waddell Wilson, recused themselves because they were on the ballot).
A maximum of five votes may be cast from a list of 20 nominees (this was the first year in which Ryan voted for fewer than five)
His ballot for the 11th class (followed by his ballot for each of the preceding 10 years, which included six at USA TODAY Sports):
- Tony Stewart: Three Cup championships, 49 victories and two Brickyard 400s (plus an IndyCar championship) are a testament to his boundless talent, but “Smoke” also has left a mark as an alluring and highly quotable superstar and a respected team owner. His irascible personality and tenacious grit provided some of NASCAR’s best moments of the past two decades.
- Buddy Baker: The winner of the 1980 Daytona 500 and 1970 Southern 500 was one of NASCAR’s home run hitters, counting several major wins among his 19 career victories on the premier circuit. One of NASCAR’s greatest ambassadors Baker also became a beloved broadcaster on TV and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
- Waddell Wilson: Perhaps the greatest across-the-board garage resume on this year’s ballot with three championships and 109 victories as an engine builder and 19 wins (including three Daytona 500s) as a crew chief.
- Joe Gibbs: Nine NASCAR titles (four in Cup; five in Xfinity) and his four-car team remains the class of the premier circuit. Deserves to be elected in the wake of contemporaries Rick Hendrick, Richard Childress, Jack Roush and Roger Penske being elected the last few years.
2020 Landmark Award: Ralph Seagraves
Ryan’s previous NASCAR Hall of Fame ballots:
2010: Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Junior Johnson, David Pearson, Bill France Jr.
2011: Pearson, Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, Lee Petty
2012: Waltrip, Yarborough, Dale Inman, Raymond Parks, Curtis Turner
2013: Fireball Roberts, Turner, Fred Lorenzen, Herb Thomas, Tim Flock
2014: Roberts, Turner, Lorenzen, Flock, Joe Weatherly
2015: Lorenzen, Turner, Weatherly, O. Bruton Smith, Rick Hendrick
2016: Turner, Smith, Hendrick, Ray Evernham, Bobby Isaac
2017: Hendrick, Evernham, Benny Parsons, Parks, Red Byron
2018: Evernham, Byron, Robert Yates, Alan Kulwicki, Buddy Baker
2019: Jeff Gordon, Kulwicki, Baker, Davey Allison, Jack Roush
2020: Tony Stewart, Baker, Waddell Wilson, Joe Gibbs
2015: Raymond Parks
2016: Raymond Parks
2017: Raymond Parks
2018: Ralph Seagraves
2019: Jim Hunter
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Tony Stewart, the three-time Cup champion who took NASCAR by storm after transitioning from open-wheel racing, was elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s Class of 2020 on Wednesday.
Stewart’s election comes two days after his 48th birthday.
Joining Stewart in the Class of 2020 are: Joe Gibbs, Waddell Wilson, Buddy Baker and Bobby Labonte.
The class, the eleventh elected to the Hall of Fame, will be inducted on Jan. 31, 2020.
Edsel Ford won the Landmark Award.
Stewart was selected on 88% of the 57 ballots cast. Gibbs and Wilson were selected on 72%, Baker was on 70% and Labonte was on 67%.
The next three top vote-getters were Mike Stefanik, Ray Fox and Hershel McGriff.
Results for the NASCAR.com Fan Vote, in alphabetical order, were Baker, Neil Bonnett, Harry Gant, Labonte and Stewart.
MORE: Nate Ryan reveals his Hall of Fame ballot.
“It’s very humbling, to be honest,” Stewart said on NASCAR America presents MotorMouths. “There are so many great people in this sport. … to be part of it and have all the great names that are in and the people that were going to be in in the future we’re going to be with, it’s an unbelievable feeling. But it is extremely humbling.
“A lot of it is really mixed emotions because I’m still in race car driver mode and car owner mode. I’m not even thinking about hall of fames. To be inducted earlier this year into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America and now going into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, it’s just a very humbling experience.”
When asked what he would say to voters who didn’t select him, Stewart gave a typical Stewart answer.
“I don’t know but when I find out, I’m going to throw eggs at their front door tonight,” Stewart joked.
A native of Columbus, Indiana, Stewart’s election comes in his first year on the ballot. He retired from NASCAR competition at the end of 2016 with 49 Cup Series wins and three titles as a driver (2002, ’05 and ’11).
In 2014 he earned a fourth title in his role as co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing.
After being crowned the 1997 Indy Racing League champion, Stewart split time in 1998 between the IRL and the Xfinity Series, competing for Joe Gibbs Racing. He moved up to Cup in 1999 and claimed the Rookie of the Year title after earning three wins. He was the first rookie to win a race since Davey Allison in 1987.
Stewart won two Brickyard 400s, four July Daytona races and eight road course races, including his final Cup win in June 2016 at Sonoma Raceway.
Stewart is one of the most prolific Cup drivers to never win the Daytona 500, joining fellow Hall of Famer Mark Martin in that category.
Nicknamed “Smoke,” Stewart is also one of four drivers to compete in the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in the same day. He did it twice, in 1999 and 2001.
Stewart’s election also comes 27 years after he attended his first NASCAR race, the 1992 Cup finale at Atlanta Motor Speedway, as a 21-year-old wearing a $2,000 suit and trying to “impress people.”
“I thought like I was wasting my time being down there,” Stewart said in 2016. “I thought there was no way I was going to get an opportunity to come do this.”
Stewart will be joined in the Hall of Fame by Gibbs. Stewart raced for Gibbs in Cup from 1999-2009, and Labonte, his teammate at JGR until 2005.
“I couldn’t think of a better day than my boss, Joe Gibbs, or my teammate, Bobby Labonte, that was the one responsible to get me in to Joe Gibbs Racing to go in with those guys,” Stewart said on MotorMouths. “And Waddell Wilson, who was part of Ranier-Walsh Racing, who I drove for in ’96 before I drove for Joe. It really is a cool day, a cool day to be in with these guys.”
Gibbs, a NFL Hall of Fame head coach, entered NASCAR as an owner in 1992. Since then he has accumulated four Cup titles, five Xfinity titles and 157 wins. He was elected in his third year on the ballot.
Labonte was also elected in his third year on the ballot. The younger brother of Hall of Famer Terry Labonte, Bobby is a Cup (2000) and Xfinity champion (1991). He earned 21 Cup wins, including two Brickyard 400s and one Southern 500. His first win came in the 1995 Coca-Cola 600.
Wilson was three-time championship engine builder. He crafted the engines that won titles in 1968, ’69 and ’73. He also won the Daytona 500 three times as a crew chief winning with Baker in 1980 and Cale Yarborough in 1983-84.
Baker, known as the “Gentle Giant,” was elected in his sixth year on the ballot. Baker made 699 starts from 1959-92 and claimed 19 Cup wins, including one Southern 500 and two Coke 600s. After retiring he transitioned into TV, where he worked for TNN and CBS and later SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Baker died in 2015 at the age of 74 after a battle with cancer.