Carl Edwards wins fuel mileage battle to capture Coca-Cola 600, snaps 31-race winless streak

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Carl Edwards predicted before the season that he’d win 10 races and the Sprint Cup championship in 2015.

Well, after Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600, it’s now one win down and nine to go.

“JGR is back and so is Toyota,” Edwards said of his first victory for Joe Gibbs Racing, having joined the team prior to this season after more than a decade with Roush Fenway Racing. “I can’t believe I won this race.”

Edwards becomes the ninth different driver to win a race in 2015 – and there are still 14 more races remaining before the start of the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup playoffs.

Edwards’ 24th career win in his 385th career Cup start broke a 31-race winless streak dating to last June at Sonoma. It also marked Edwards’ first career Cup win at Charlotte Motor Speedway after three previous third-place finishes.

Edwards led three times for a total of 25 laps in the race, including taking the lead for the final time with 21 laps remaining. Martin Truex Jr., who finished fifth, led the most laps: 131. Kurt Busch led the second most with 118.

Edwards’ former teammate, Greg Biffle, finished second, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth and Truex.

Kyle Busch, in his first full race since returning from a broken right leg and fractured left foot, finished 11th.

How Edwards won: When Harvick and Keselowski came down pit road on Lap 380, 20 laps from the finish, Edwards’ crew chief Darian Grubb gambled by keeping his driver on the track for position and taking the lead in the process. Edwards had not pitted for fuel since Lap 338, but Grubb was confident his driver had saved enough fuel in the process to make it to the finish line – and the gamble paid off.

Who else had a good day: Biffle had his best finish of the season and best finish since placing second in last season’s spring race at Talladega. Biffle said: “It feels good, we ran in the top 10 all night and this wasn’t a gimme.” … Truex led the most laps and appeared headed to his first win since 2013, but fell back in the closing laps to finish fifth, his 11th top-10 finish in the first 12 races of 2015. “Sooner or later we’re going to get a little bit of luck on our side. Right now, we just can’t get nothing to go our way.”

Who had a bad day: Jimmie Johnson had a race-winning capable car, but the handling went away twice, once while adjusting the track bar early in the event and then again on Lap 274, when he lost control, came on to pit road and slammed the inside retaining wall. He took the car to the garage for repairs, and while he returned on Lap 301, his night was done for all intents and purposes. Johnson finished 40th. … Ryan Blaney had his motor fail on Lap 282 while running 14th. “There was really no issue,” Blaney said. “It sputtered and started to go maybe half a lap before and then it really went up. I didn’t expect it to really explode like that.”

Notables: Shortly after the mid-point of the race, Denny Hamlin reported that the motor in his Toyota wasn’t sounding right, that there might be an exhaust problem. But Hamlin mustered on and the car didn’t seem to have lost anything. Hamlin ultimately finished eighth. … Edwards becomes the eighth different driver to win a Sprint Cup race for Joe Gibbs Racing, which claimed its 117th all-time Cup win. … It was the third win for Toyota at Charlotte. It’s also the third win for the manufacturer this season, exceeding last season’s two victories for the entire 36-race schedule.

Quote of the Day: “I don’t know what to do about fuel mileage races,” Truex said. “I never, never, ever, ever one time in my whole career come out on the right end of ‘em. I never get good fuel mileage.”

What’s next: FedEx 400 Benefitting Autism Speaks, Dover International Speedway; Dover, Del.

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Helio Castroneves rules out Daytona 500

Helio Castroneves Daytona 500
Robert Scheer/Indy Star/USA TODAY NETWORK
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Helio Castroneves might be at the 2023 Daytona 500, but the four-time Indy 500 winner won’t be in a race car.

During a news conference Thursday at Daytona International Speedway, Castroneves confirmed in response to a question from NBC Sports that he essentially has ruled out attempting to make his NASCAR Cup Series debut in the Feb. 19 season opener.

As recently as last Thursday at Rolex 24 Media Day, Castroneves, 47, said he still was working on trying to piece together a deal.

The Brazilian had been negotiating with the Cup team co-owned by boxer Floyd Mayweather and would have been in an “open” entry that lacked guaranteed entry to the Great American Race. That potentially would leave him in the precarious position of needing to make the race on qualifying speed or a qualifying race finish (as action sports star Travis Pastrana likely might need in his Cup debut).

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“Unfortunately for me, lack of experience, no testing,” Castroneves said. “A lot of things. I believe it would be a little bit tough throwing myself in such a short notice, and to go in a place that you’ve got to race yourself into it. So as of right now, yes, it’s not going to happen.

“But we did have an opportunity. We just got to elaborate a little bit more to give me a little more experience on that. So there is more things to come ahead of us, but as of right now, I want to focus on the IndyCar program as well and (the Rolex 24 at Daytona).”

Castroneves, who has a residence in Key Biscayne, said he still might attend the Daytona 500

“I might just come and see and watch it and continue to take a look and see what’s going to be in the future,” he said.

Castroneves enters Saturday’s Rolex 24 at Daytona having won the event the past two years. He made his signature fence-climb after winning last year with Meyer Shank Racing, which he will be driving for full time in the NTT IndyCar Series this year. He became the fourth four-time Indy 500 winner in history in his 2021 debut with Meyer Shank Racing.

The 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar champion also has indicated an interest in Trackhouse Racing’s Project 91 car that aims to place international drivers in a Cup ride (such as Kimi Raikkonen at Watkins Glen International last year). Team co-owner Justin Marks recently tweeted Trackhouse wouldn’t field the Project 91 car at the Daytona 500.

After winning the 2022 Superstar Racing Experience opener, SRX CEO Don Hawk had promised he would help secure a Daytona 500 ride for Castroneves.

Castroneves has been angling for a NASCAR ride for years, dating to when he drove for Team Penske from 2000-20. After winning the Rolex 24 last year, he said he had been lobbying Ray Evernham and Tony Stewart for help with getting in a Cup car.

Though Castroneves is out, Sports Business Journal’s Adam Stern reported that Mayweather’s The Money Team Racing still is considering IndyCar driver Conor Daly for its seat.

Fire at Reaume Brothers Racing shop injures three

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A Thursday fire at the Reaume Brothers Racing shop in Mooresville, North Carolina, injured three individuals, according to Mooresville (North Carolina) Fire-Rescue.

Firefighters were dispatched to the shop, which is scheduled to field entries for driver Mason Massey in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series this season, at about 11:30 a.m. Thursday.

The fire department extinguished the blaze quickly. The department stated on its Facebook page that one individual was transported to Lake Norman Regional hospital for smoke inhalation, and another was transported to Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem, N.C. with burn injuries. A third was treated and released.

The Mooresville Fire Marshall’s office is investigating the cause of the fire. The fire department said the shop sustained “significant fire damage.”

In a tweet, the team said it is determining the extent of damage to the building. “More importantly,” it said, “a few of our team members did sustain injuries during the fire and are being transported for medical treatment.”

Trackhouse, RFK Racing, Front Row Motorsports sign sponsorship deals

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Trackhouse Racing, RFK Racing and Front Row Motorsports announced sponsorship deals Thursday morning.

Trackhouse said WWEX, a Dallas-based global logistics group, will increase its sponsorship presence with the team this year, serving as the primary sponsor in 21 races for drivers Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez.

WWEX will appear on Chastain’s Chevrolets in 19 races and will sponsor Suarez twice. The organization was a Trackhouse sponsor in 11 events in 2022, which was a breakout season for both Chastain and Suarez.

RFK announced that Solomon Plumbing, which joined the team last season, will expand its presence this season and in future years. The Michigan-based company will serve as the primary sponsor for several races on driver Brad Keselowski‘s No. 6 Ford.

MORE: Chase Briscoe signs contract extension with Stewart-Haas

Solomon specializes in plumbing and fire services for new development and construction. It initially sponsored Keselowski last season in the dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Front Row Motorsports has signed Quincy Compressor, a Bay Minette, Ala.-based compressor manufacturer, as a sponsor for four races.

Quincy will sponsor Todd Gilliland‘s No. 38 team in three events and Michael McDowell‘s No. 34 team in one race.

 

 

Stewart-Haas Racing signs Chase Briscoe to contract extension

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Chase Briscoe has signed a multiyear contract extension to remain at Stewart-Haas Racing, the team announced Thursday.

The length of the deal was not announced.

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Briscoe is entering his third Cup season with the team. He won his first series race last year, taking the checkered flag at Phoenix last March. That victory put him in the playoffs. He finished the season ninth in the standings. 

“It’s huge to have stability, with my team and my partner,” Briscoe said in a statement from the team. “It just gives you more confidence. Stewart-Haas Racing is where I want to be for a long time. It’s the place I’ve known longer than anywhere else in my NASCAR career.

“I remember getting signed by Ford in 2017 and I told people, ‘You know, if I could pick one place to be, it would be Stewart- Haas Racing. And if I could drive one car, it would be the 14 car. That would be the ultimate dream.’ And now, here I am.

“SHR has such a great group of people, from the Xfinity Series to the Cup Series, and they’ve all just guided me in the right direction. From drivers to crew chiefs to crew members, they’ve always had my back, and that’s been a huge help – just having people believe in you.”

The 28-year-old Briscoe has been with SHR since 2018. He split a limited Xfinity schedule that season between what is now RFK Racing and SHR. He ran full time with SHR in the Xfinity Series in 2019 and ’20 before moving to Cup in 2021.

“Chase has made the most of every opportunity and the proof is in the results. Keeping him at SHR was a priority and we’re proud to have him in our racecars for many more years to come,” said Tony Stewart, who co-owns SHR with Haas Automation founder Gene Haas, in a statement from the team. 

Briscoe’s signing comes two weeks after teammate Kevin Harvick announced that this will be his final season in Cup. 

The Cup season begins Feb. 5 with the Busch Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before going to Daytona for the Feb. 19 Daytona 500.