Denny Hamlin roars to first career Sprint All-Star Race victory and a cool $1 million prize

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Denny Hamlin won his first – as well as Toyota’s and Joe Gibbs Racing’s first – Sprint All-Star Race Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Hamlin held off a surge by eventual runner-up Kevin Harvick midway through the final 10-lap segment and powered his way to victory and the $1 million first prize.

Harvick won $250,000 for his second-place showing.

Kurt Busch finished third (and won $150,000), followed by Jeff Gordon, making his 22nd and final appearance in the All-Star Race. Gordon is retiring after this season.

All 10 laps in the fifth and final segment were run under green flag conditions. The field was set upon average finish in the first four segments.

Kasey Kahne won the first segment, Brad Keselowski won the second and third segments and Kurt Busch won the fourth segment, setting up the 10-lap sprint for the win and the $1 million prize.

Hamlin made it very clear from the start of the segment that he was not to be denied. When the green flag fell, he immediately pulled away and never looked back.

Harvick got close to Hamlin’s bumper, cutting the lead to .011 of a second, but would get no closer and eventually trailed away in the final two laps.

Matt Kenseth finished fifth, followed by Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Tenth through 20th were AJ Allmendinger, Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle, Aric Almirola, Jimmie Johnson, Jamie McMurray, Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick.

How Hamlin won: Getting the jump on the start of the 10-lap final segment was the trick for Hamlin. He quickly powered away from Harvick and Busch and never looked back. Busch said after the race that he thought Hamlin may have jumped the start. “We restarted second. We’re going to have to go to the tape and look at it and see if Denny went too soon. … His car went two car lengths before in my mind. We didn’t finish worst than fifth in any of our segments, we did our job and I was asleep at the wheel on the (final) restart.”

Who else had a good day: Even though he started back in the field in the first segment, Harvick had one of the best cars in the overall race. That’s why he wound up second. But Hamlin’s car was just too powerful to catch in such a short 10-lap sprint. Here’s what Harvick had to say after the race: “We had a real fast race car. I put us in a hole after qualifying, but a real fast race car was able to dig us out of it. So, it was a lot of fun, we just came up a little short.” … Also having a good day was Kyle Busch, who finished sixth in his first race back after sustaining a broken right leg and fractured left foot 84 days earlier in the Xfinity Series season opener at Daytona. Busch said after the race, “We had a great race tonight. It was really great for us. I was comfortable in the car, everything worked well for me. I just felt like getting back into home. It was definitely progress for what’s going to happen and am looking forward to being able to run 400 laps around here, 600 miles, and get a good finish.”

Who had a bad day: Danica Patrick qualified eighth, but was forced to start at the back of the field due to an engine change. Unfortunately, she suffered a blown engine shortly into the fourth segment and ended up last in the 20-driver field. … Also having a bad night was Patrick’s boss, Tony Stewart. Even though he finished all 110 laps, Stewart had a poor run, finishing 19th.

Notables: Hamlin becomes only the fifth pole-sitter to have gone on to win in the All-Star Race’s 31-year history. … What is Denny Hamlin going to do with his $1 million prize? “I have a little daughter at home that would like to go to college, so let’s save that for the college fund.” … In his 22nd and final All-Star Race, Jeff Gordon really appreciated the fans’ affection for him. “Certainly, the introductions, seeing all the fans holding the signs with the 24 on it, having (wife) Ingrid and the kids and my mom and dad there was amazing. Those were all surprises to me. I asked my parents why were they there because I never see them at driver introductions (he said with a smile), and now I know why. It was very, very special and something I’ll never forget. I’m also glad we had a very solid performance overall as a team.”

Quote of the day: “You want to win the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400, the Coca-Cola 600 and you want to be an All-Star. … Can’t say enough for this whole team and everyone from Toyota, getting their first All-Star victory, as well. This is just a big day. … This is just an unbelievable experience.” – Sprint All-Star Race winner Denny Hamlin.

What’s next: Coca-Cola 600, May 25, 6 pm ET, Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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NBC will broadcast final six NASCAR Cup Series playoff races

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The final six races in the chase for the NASCAR Cup Series championship will be televised by NBC.

The races remaining on the schedule are at Talladega Superspeedway (Oct. 2), the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (Oct. 9), Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Oct. 16), Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 23), Martinsville Speedway (Oct. 30) and Phoenix Raceway (Nov. 6).

NBC’s broadcasting team will be on hand Sunday for what is typically a seasonal highlight — a 500-mile race at Talladega Superspeedway. The next week the playoffs move on to Charlotte for a cutoff race. The lowest four drivers in the playoff point standings will be eliminated from championship competition.

The Round of 8 is scheduled at Las Vegas, Homestead and Martinsville, with the tiny Martinsville track serving as the final cutoff race. The four drivers who advance from Martinsville will race for the title at Phoenix Nov. 6.

The high drama of the Phoenix race, in which the championship will go to the highest finisher of the four competing drivers, will be carried by both NBC and Peacock.

Post-race commentary and analysis for all six remaining Cup races will be carried on Peacock.

Kyle Larson is the series defending champion. Joey Logano carries the point lead into Sunday’s race at Talladega.

NASCAR viewer’s guide for Talladega Superspeedway

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After a messy Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs move on this weekend to another potentially messy spot — Talladega Superspeedway.

Home to the Big One — an almost certain multi-car crash, Talladega also occasionally produces unexpected winners, including Richard Brickhouse, James Hylton, Lennie Pond, Ron Bouchard and Brad Keselowski.

The mix of tight drafting, the Next Gen car and general playoff tension should make Sunday’s 500-mile run quite the adventure.

On Sunday at Texas, Tyler Reddick became the second driver (after Chase Elliott) to score three wins this season.

Joey Logano enters Talladega with the playoff point lead.

Playoff rookies roll on

The four drivers participating in the Cup playoffs for the first time remain factors approaching the second race in the second round.

Ross Chastain is second in the standings, 18 points above the cutline entering Talladega.

MORE: NBC NASCAR rankings put Denny Hamlin first

Daniel Suarez, Chastain’s Trackhouse Racing teammate, is seventh. He’s four points above the cutline.

Two other playoff rookies — Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric — will start Talladega below the cutline. Briscoe is four points below the cutline. Cindric is 11 points below the cutline.

Looking for wins

Only six of the remaining 12 playoff drivers have won races at the two remaining tracks in the second round (Talladega and Charlotte Roval).

Among the six, Joey Logano has the best win record at Talladega, having finished first there in 2015, 2016 and 2018.

Other Talladega winners in the group: Ryan Blaney (two), Denny Hamlin (two), Chase Elliott (one), Ross Chastain (one).

The Charlotte Roval is relatively new, of course, but Chase Elliott already owns two wins there. Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson also have won at the Roval.

An opening for Brad?

Few people who watched it will forget the first Cup Series victory scored by Brad Keselowski.

It occurred at this week’s tour stop — Talladega Superspeedway — in April 2009. Keselowski and Carl Edwards made contact approaching the finish line and notched the win, even as Edwards’ car flew into the frontstretch fence, spraying car parts into the grandstands.

Thirteen years later, Keselowski returns to NASCAR’s biggest track having recorded six Talladega wins. No other active drive has more than three.

Keselowski’s refurbished team — Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing — has new fire with Chris Buescher winning at Bristol and Keselowski winning the pole and finishing eighth at Texas.

RFK Racing has led 309 laps in the past two races, more than the team had led in the prior 105 races combined.

Although he hasn’t won a Cup race since scoring a victory in a Team Penske Ford in April 2021 at Talladega, Keselowski must be considered a threat Sunday.

Entry lists

Thirty-seven drivers, including Xfinity Series star Noah Gragson and reigning Xfinity champion Daniel Hemric, are entered for Sunday’s Cup race.

Talladega Cup entry list

The Xfinity entry list includes 41 drivers for 38 spots. Among those joining the series regulars are Trevor Bayne, Parker Kligerman, Timmy Hill and Jeffrey Earnhardt.

Talladega Xfinity entry list

Forty-one drivers are entered for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race. Included are Kaz Grala, Ryan Preece, Natalie Decker, Jennifer Jo Cobb and Parker Kligerman.

Talladega Truck entry list

This week’s schedule and forecast

(All times Eastern)

Friday, Sept. 30

Forecast: Partly cloudy. High of 77. (Weather note: There is the possibility that Hurricane Ian could impact the race weekend, depending on its path).

  • 3:30 – 5 p.m. — Truck Series qualifying
  • 5:30 – 7 p.m. — Xfinity Series qualifying (USA Network)

Saturday, Oct. 1

Forecast: Overcast with showers at times. Potential for heavy rainfall. High of 73. 60% chance of rain.

  • 10:30 a.m. – Noon — Cup Series qualifying (NBC Sports app, Motor Racing Network, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio)
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series race (94 laps, 250 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 4 p.m. — Xfinity Series race (113 laps, 300 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, Oct. 2

Forecast: Sun in the morning, increasing clouds in the afternoon. Slight chance of a shower. High of 74.

  • 2 p.m. — Cup Series race (188 laps, 500 miles; NBC, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

 

 

 

 

NASCAR fines Ty Gibbs $75,000 for pit road incident at Texas

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NASCAR fined Ty Gibbs $75,000 and docked him 25 points for door-slamming Ty Dillon on pit road during last weekend’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Crew members from other teams were nearby when Gibbs hit Dillon’s car, causing it to swerve. No crew members or officials were hit.

NASCAR has made it a priority that drivers are not to cause contact that could injured crew members or officials on pit road. NASCAR also penalized Gibbs 25 Cup driver points and docked 23XI Racing 25 car owner points for the No. 23 Cup car that Gibbs drives.

NASCAR penalizes William Byron for spinning Denny Hamlin

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NASCAR has docked William Byron 25 points and fined him $50,000 for spinning Denny Hamlin under caution in last weekend’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Byron drops from third in the playoff standings to below the cutline heading into Sunday’s Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Chase Briscoe moves up to hold the final transfer spot with 3,041 points. Austin Cindric is the first driver outside a transfer spot with 3,034 points. Byron is next at 3,033 points.

Hendrick Motorsports was docked 25 owner points as well.

Hendrick Motorsports stated it would appeal the penalty.

The caution waved at Lap 269 for Martin Truex Jr.’s crash. As Hamlin slowed, Byron closed and hit him in the rear. 

Byron admitted after the race the contact was intentional, although he didn’t mean to wreck Hamlin. Byron was upset with how Hamlin raced him on Lap 262. Byron felt Hamlin forced him into the wall as they exited Turn 2 side-by-side. Byron expressed his displeasure during the caution.

“I felt like he ran me out of race track off of (Turn) 2 and had really hard contact with the wall,” Byron said. “Felt like the toe link was definitely bent, luckily not fully broken. We were able to continue.

“A lot of times that kind of damage is going to ruin your race, especially that hard. I totally understand running somebody close and making a little bit of contact, but that was pretty massive.”

On the retaliatory hit, Byron said: “I didn’t mean to spin him out. That definitely wasn’t what I intended to do. I meant to bump him a little bit and show my displeasure and unfortunately, it happened the way it did. Obviously, when he was spinning out, I was like ‘I didn’t mean to do this,’ but I was definitely frustrated.”

Hamlin and crew chief Chris Gabehart argued and questioned NASCAR for not putting Hamlin back in second place — where he was before Byron hit him — and also questioned Byron not being penalized.

“I guess we can just wreck each other under caution,” Hamlin said after the race.

Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, told reporters after the race that series officials did not penalize Byron because they did not see the incident. 

“When we were in the tower, we were paying more attention to the actual cause of the caution up there and dispatching our equipment,” Miller said. “The William Byron-Denny Hamlin thing, we had no eyes on. We saw Denny go through the grass.

“By the time we got a replay that showed the incident well enough to do anything to it, we had gone back to green.”