Snowball Derby shocker: Chase Elliott wins after Christopher Bell DQ’d

(Photo courtesy Five Flags Speedway)
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NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Christopher Bell’s victory in the 48th annual Snowball Derby in Pensacola, Fla., lasted less than 30 minutes.

After taking the checkered flag, Bell, 21, was disqualified after post-race technical inspection at Five Flags Speedway found his Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota over the limit of left-side weight.

As a result, runner-up Chase Elliott – who will replace Jeff Gordon in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2016 – was awarded the victory in the 300-lap Super Late Model race on the half-mile asphalt track. It was Elliott’s second Snowball triumph, having also won there in 2011.

Zane Smith finished second, followed by Ty Majewski, Dalton Sargeant and Bubba Pollard.

According to Speed51.com, the left-side weight ratio is capped at 58 percent. The left-side weight ratio of Bell’s car was measured at 58.3 percent.

“I have no idea, I really don’t,” Bell told Speed51.com. “KBM built a great race car and it was fast. I crossed the finish line first.”

Bell’s crew chief Chris Gabehart told Speed51.com that the build up on the left side tires from the victory lap possibly contributed to the weight issue.

It is the fourth time in the last 10 years that the Derby winner has been disqualified.

Elliott can probably feel for Bell, as he went through a similar situation in the 2013 Derby. Elliott took the checkered flag first but was disqualified in post-race inspection.

The win that year then went to Kyle Busch Motorsports driver and 2015 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champ Erik Jones, who also won the 2012 Derby.

Team owner and 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup champ Kyle Busch was not happy with the turn of events, tweeting:

Added Ricky Stenhouse Jr.,

It was the second disqualification of the weekend for Bell, who competed in seven Truck races for Kyle Busch Motorsports this past season, including winning at Eldora Speedway.

Bell, 21, had his top qualifying effort on Friday disqualified in inspection afterward. He had to start Saturday’s 50-lap “last-chance” qualifying race to regain a spot in the Derby, and did it in convincing fashion. Starting from the back of the 27-car pack, he won to move on to Sunday’s main event.

Bell led an event-high 91 laps, taking the lead the first time on Lap 201 and regained it from defending Snowball Derby champ John Hunter Nemechek on Lap 283, holding on for the final 17 laps to take the checkered flag.

Nemechek, who captured Saturday night’s Snowflake 100, had a good chance to repeat in Sunday’s event. But with 25 laps to go, Nemechek’s Chevrolet began to show smoke from what appeared to be a tire rub that led to a flat right front.

He brought his car to pit road with five laps remaining – spinning in the process – only to see his car erupt into flames. Nemechek scrambled from the burning ride and was uninjured. Nemechek finished 21st in the 37-car field.

OFFICIAL Snowball Derby Results
Presented by Racecar Engineering (courtesy of Speed51.com and TheThirdTurn.com)

Fin St # Driver Laps Led Status
1 2 9 Chase Elliott 300 3 running
2 19 77 Zane Smith 300 40 running
3 1 91 Ty Majeski 300 63 running
4 4 5S Dalton Sargeant 300 0 running
5 18 26 Bubba Pollard 300 0 running
6 35 99 Casey Smith 300 0 running
7 3 48 Preston Peltier 300 0 running
8 15 9B William Byron 300 0 running
9 12 43 Derek Thorn 300 0 running
10 11 5H Daniel Hemric 300 0 running
11 10 3 Kaz Grala 300 0 running
12 28 17 Quin Houff 300 0 running
13 5 11 Logan Boyett 300 0 running
14 30 7 Corey LaJoie 299 0 running
15 27 67 Clay Jones 299 0 running
16 33 13 Cassius Clark 298 0 running
17 17 5 Jerry Artuso 297 0 running
18 34 29 Caleb Adrian 296 0 running
19 23 83 Scotty Ellis 295 0 running
20 7 21 Johanna Long 295 0 running
21 37 8 John Hunter Nemechek 294 0 fire
22 32 15 Christian Eckes 291 0 running
23 21 2W Donnie Wilson 273 0 crash
24 20 9K Derek Kraus 270 0 crash
25 29 8G Noah Gragson 269 0 crash
26 24 12 Harrison Burton 214 0 suspension
27 8 51N Stephen Nasse 190 0 mechanical
28 6 7 Casey Roderick 175 0 crash
29 22 45 Kyle Plott 167 0 crash
30 16 2 D.J. VanderLey 165 0 mechanical
31 26 42 Chad Finley 140 0 engine
32 36 1 Garrett Jones 137 0 mechanical
33 14 31 Kyle Grissom 63 0 crash
34 13 112 Augie Grill 63 0 crash
35 25 H2 Bret Holmes 62 0 crash
36 9 20 Spencer Davis 29 0 mechanical
37 31 51B Christopher Bell 300 93 running/DQ

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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.

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.”

Kurt Busch ‘hopeful’ he can return from concussion this year

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CONCORD, N.C. — Kurt Busch said Tuesday he remains “hopeful” he will recover from a concussion in time to race again before the end of the NASCAR Cup season.

The 2004 Cup champion has been sidelined since he crashed July 23 during qualifying at Pocono Raceway. He’s so far missed 10 races – both Ty Gibbs and Bubba Wallace have driven the No. 45 Toyota for 23XI Racing since Busch was injured – and withdrew his eligibility to participate in the playoffs.

“I’m doing good. Each week is better progress and I feel good and I don’t know when I will be back, but time has been the challenge. Father Time is the one in charge on this one,” Busch said.

There are six races remaining this season and 23XI co-owner Denny Hamlin said the team has contingency plans for Busch’s recovery and is not pressuring the 44-year-old to get back in the car. Busch is under contract at 23XI through next season with an option for 2024.

Hamlin said this past weekend at Texas that Busch has a doctor’s visit scheduled in early October that could reveal more about if Busch can return this season.

Busch has attended a variety of events to stimulate his recovery and enjoyed an evening at the rodeo over the weekend. But his visit to Charlotte Motor Speedway on Tuesday for its 10th annual honoring of Breast Cancer Awareness Month was Busch’s first official appearance as a NASCAR driver since his injury.

He attended for the second consecutive year as part of his “Window of Hope” program in which all the window nets on the Cup cars will be pink meshing in next week’s race on The Roval at Charlotte. Busch credited the Toyota Performance Center at TRD’s North Carolina headquarters for helping his recovery and getting him out to events again.

“I feel hopeful. I know I have more doctor visits and distance to go, and I keep pushing each week,” Busch said. “And TPC, Toyota Performance Center, has been a group of angels with the workouts and the vestibular workouts, different nutrition as well and different supplements and things to help everything rebalance with my vision, my hearing. Just my overall balance in general.”

He said his vision is nearly 20/20 in one eye, but his other eye has been lagging behind in recovery. Busch also said he wasn’t sure why he was injured in what appeared to be a routine backing of his car into the wall during a spin in qualifying.

NASCAR this year introduced its Next Gen car that was designed to cut costs and level the playing field, but the safety of the spec car has been under fire since Busch’s crash. Drivers have complained they feel the impact much more in crashes than they did in the old car, and a rash of blown tires and broken parts has plagued the first four races of the playoffs.

Busch said his concussion “is something I never knew would happen, as far as injury” and likened his health battle to that of the breast cancer survivors who aided him in painting the pit road walls at Charlotte pink for next week’s race.

“Each situation is different. It’s similar to a breast cancer survivor. Not every story is the same, not every injury is the same,” Busch said. “It’s not like a broken arm and then you get the cast taken off and can go bench press 300 pounds. It’s a process. I don’t know what journey I’m on, but I’m going to keep pushing.”

NASCAR Power Rankings: Denny Hamlin returns to first place

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Four races into the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs and drivers who are eligible to win the championship remain 0-for-4 in pursuit of race wins.

Tyler Reddick became winner No. 4 on that list Sunday night at Texas Motor Speedway.

And now we go to Talladega Superspeedway, where there is potential for drivers from the far back end of the field to emerge victorious, given the impact of drafting and, more significantly, wrecking.

Sunday’s tire-exploding, wall-banging, car-wrestling craziness at Texas Motor Speedway jumbled the playoff standings again, and the same is true for the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings, which see a new leader in Denny Hamlin.

MORE: Winners and losers at Texas

Hamlin could be a busy guy the rest of the season. His potential retaliation list grew Sunday with the addition of William Byron after they had a major disagreement.

Here’s how the rankings look in the middle of the Round of 12:

NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

1. Denny Hamlin (No. 3 last week) — Despite everything — the tires, the wrecks, the hassle, the weather and a brouhaha with William Byron, Hamlin finished 10th Sunday and is sixth in the playoff standings entering Talladega. He has the best average finish — 5.75 — in the playoff races. Unless his “list” gets in the way, Hamlin might be ready to seriously challenge for his first championship.

2. Kyle Larson (No. 4 last week) — Larson led 19 laps at Texas and probably should have led more with one of the race’s best cars. Now fourth in points, he figures to be a factor over the final two weeks of the round.

3. Chase Elliott (No. 2 last week) — Elliott was not a happy camper after smashing the wall because of a tire issue and riding a flaming car to a halt. He finished 32nd.

4. Joey Logano (No. 6 last week) — Logano was chasing down winner Tyler Reddick in the closing laps at Texas. He jumps to first in the playoff standings and gains two spots in NBC’s rankings.

5. William Byron (No. 5 last week) — Byron might be No. 1 on Denny Hamlin’s list; here he slides in at No. 5.

6. Christopher Bell (No. 1 last week) — Bell had a rotten Sunday in Texas, crashing not once but twice with tire issues and finishing 34th, causing a precipitous drop on the rankings list.

7. Ross Chastain (No. 7 last week) — Chastain’s team played the tires and the cautions right and probably deserved better than a 13th-place finish Sunday.

8. Ryan Blaney (No. 8 last week) — Mr. Winless (except in All-Star dress) rolls on. A fourth-place run (and 29 laps led) Sunday keeps him relevant.

9. Chase Briscoe (No. 9 last week) — Briscoe’s Texas run started poorly but ended nicely with a fifth-place run.

10. Tyler Reddick (unranked last week) — Reddick Sunday became the only driver not named Chase Elliott with more than two race wins this year. Now totaling three victories, he got his first oval win at Texas.

Dropped out: Alex Bowman (No. 10 last week).