Jimmie Johnson leads Hendrick onslaught, holds off Kevin Harvick to win at Kansas

3 Comments

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.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

NASCAR announces changes to Kansas playoff weekend

Leave a comment

Citing “programming changes,” NASCAR announced shifts in the race dates and start times for its visit next month to Kansas Speedway.

The Xfinity, ARCA and Truck Series races have been shifted, while the Cup race remains at 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday, Oct. 18.

The biggest move is the Truck Series race shifting from Friday night to Saturday afternoon.

Here are the changes.

Friday, Oct. 16, 8:30 p.m. ETARCA Menards Series on FS1 or FS2; network TBD at a later date (previously at 10 p.m. ET)

Saturday, Oct. 17, 4 p.m. ETTruck Series on FOX (previously Friday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. ET on FS1)

Saturday, Oct. 17, 7 p.m. ET Xfinity on NBCSN (previously 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

 

Xfinity Series playoff standings after Las Vegas

Leave a comment

Chase Briscoe opened the Xfinity Series playoffs by earning his second consecutive win.

His victory Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway gives him 57 playoff points and an automatic spot in the Round of 8.

Harrison Burton holds the final transfer spot. He has a two-point advantage over Ross Chastain.

Behind Chastain below the cutline are Michael Annett (-10 points), Riley Herbst (-14) and Brandon Brown (-20).

Below is the full Xfinity Series playoff standings going into Saturday’s race at Talladega (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Drivers in red are below the cutline to advance. Drivers in yellow are in the remaining playoff spots.

Xfinity Series playoff standings

Cup playoff standings after Las Vegas

Leave a comment

Kurt Busch flipped the script on the Cup playoff standings with his win Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

He entered the Round of 12 as the last driver in the playoff standings, but is the first driver to clinch a spot in the Round of 8.

Replacing Busch in the bottom spot of the playoff standings is Austin Dillon. He is 32 points behind Alex Bowman, who holds the final cutoff spot.

Behind Bowman is Kyle Busch (-9 points), Clint Bowyer (-20), Aric Almirola (-27) and Dillon.

“Obviously, the 1 car (Kurt Busch) was not a car that we needed to win a race,” Clint Bowyer said after Sunday’s race. “It’s been a hell of a battle back there with cars that are kind of in the same wheelhouse as far as points-wise. (Kurt Busch) winning changes that landscape quite a bit, but we’re only 20 points out.”

Here is the full playoff standings entering Sunday’s playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Drivers in red are below the cutline to advance to the Round of 8. Drivers in yellow hold the remaining available playoff spots.

Cup playoff standings

 

 

Kurt Busch win capped off big racing weekend for family

Leave a comment

After hopping from the door of his No. 1 Chevrolet Sunday night, Kurt Busch let out a primal scream.

The source of his emotion?

“20 years of agony and defeat” at the his home track, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, had been replaced by “triumph.”

After the fortunate timing of a caution and pit strategy Sunday night, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver led the final 26 laps and visited LVMS’ Victory Lane for the first time, a day after his brother Kyle Busch experienced a special win.

There was plenty more for the 42-year-old driver to celebrate. He’d entered the Round of 12 as the last driver in the playoff standings. But with his first win in 46 races, Busch became the first driver to plant in his flag in the Round of 8.

But the Las Vegas native’s focus was on the 1.5-mile track, which he’d seen evolve from a “desert gravel pit” into the site of two NASCAR race weekends each year.

“This feeling of growing up here and watching the track get built … when Speedway Motorsports came in and bought it, I’m like, ‘Man, there’s going to be a Cup race there, I hope I can make my way up through Legend cars (and race there). And just all the memories, all the memories of everybody, my mom and dad, every Saturday night, all the commitment they gave me and my little brother (Kyle Busch) to make it in racing.

“For me it was a hobby. I never knew I’d get this far. A guy named Craig Keough here locally in Las Vegas, the owner of the Star Nurseries here in Las Vegas, took a chance on me and let me run his late model a few times and we won a couple races and started working our way up.”

Busch made his first NASCAR start on the Las Vegas oval in 2001 driving for Roush Fenway Racing. Between then and Sunday, he won 31 Cup races, the 2004 championship and the 2017 Daytona 500.

But his home track eluded him until his 21st year competing on the sport’s top circuit.

Busch said Sunday’s win is “right there underneath” his Daytona win and the championship.

“Any time you win, it’s special,” Busch said. “But to do it in front of my hometown crowd and nobody was there (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) and all the people that I see every time I come to Vegas and I get to say thank you and I can’t right now, that’s the hardest part. So this one is easily ramping up to being my third most favorite win ever.

“Right now it’s my favorite because it’s here, it’s Vegas, and I have so many people to thank. They know they helped me, and they know who they are, and it just all started with mom and dad taking me to the racetrack right here at the Bullring in Las Vegas.”

The Busch family got to celebrate more than one win over the weekend.

The night before Kurt’s Vegas breakthrough, a third generation racer got his first taste of victory.

Kyle and Samantha Busch’s son, Brexton, won his first karting race and celebrated with his parents in Victory Lane.

“It’s so much fun to watch him and just to see his excitement and how much he enjoys going to the race track and being with is friends,” Kyle Busch said after his sixth-place finish Sunday. “It’s three generations worth, I guess. My dad (Tom) did it, myself and Kurt and now him. It’s pretty fun to just be out there. My dad is kind of the truck driver, the team manager, the crew chief, the lead mechanic and all that stuff on his kart.

“He’s got a big task at hand in order to get it all ready to go and get us to the race track every week. It’s been fun to see (Brexton) and to see how excited he was when he was able to win and beat the other competition that was out there and to see his joy. I told him, ‘Whatever that feeling is, whatever you’re feeling, however that sits in you, that’s feasible, that’s possible a lot more often than just one time. So don’t rest on just getting one, we gotta go out there and fight for more.'”

Kurt Busch wasn’t there for his nephew’s win, but he got all the details from his sister-in-law as they flew to Las Vegas.

“It definitely felt like a generational shift was happening,” he said. “But maybe not. Maybe not. This old guy has still got it going on.”