It’s in the rubber: Fresh tires lead Hamlin to win in Hisense 4K TV 300

(Getty Images)

Denny Hamlin’s decision to stop for four tires on the final caution proved to be the winning strategy as he rallied to win Saturday’s Hisense 4K TV 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Erik Jones blew a tire with 1 ½ laps left in regulation, bringing out the final caution. Kyle Larson and Joey Logano, who were riding on tires that had 40 laps on them, elected to stay out – while Hamlin came in for new rubber all around on his Toyota.

When the race restarted on Lap 205, Logano had a great jump on Logano and looked like he’d hold on for the win. But then came Hamlin with a full head of steam and fresh rubber, grabbed the lead from Logano on the final lap – while Larson hit the wall – and motored on into victory lane.

“I was hoping for that caution near the end and we got it,” Hamlin said to Fox Sports 1 in victory lane. “And then we took off. Man, what a great day.”

Logano agreed that Hamlin’s decision to pit on the final caution was the race-winning move.

“No doubt about it,.” Logano said. “We had a car capable of winning. If I could clear (Larson on the final restart), which I did, we have a shot. But it’s hard to hold off four tires.”

Hamlin led the most laps (76) in the extended 206-lap event. He also led five different times in the race.

It was Hamlin’s 16th career win in the Xfinity Series and his first Xfinity win in 11 starts at Charlotte (his best finish prior to Saturday were three runner-up showings).

It was also Joe Gibbs Racing’s seventh win in the series thus far in the 2016 season (and eighth Xfinity win at Charlotte).

In addition, it was the fifth win for the No. 18 Toyota in 2016, coming with three different drivers behind the wheel.

Austin Dillon roared past Logano in the closing seconds to take second place, while Logano slipped to third. Cole Cuter finished fourth, followed by Justin Allgaier, Larson, Brandon Jones, Ty Dillon, Brennan Poole and Brendan Gaughan.

HOW HAMLIN WON: It looked like it was going to be a battle to the extended finish between Larson and Logano. But heading into the final lap, Hamlin got a heck of a run, got into Larson’s car and then took aim on Logano, passing him on the final lap for the win. Had Erik Jones’ tire not blown on the original white flag lap (Lap 199), sending the event into overtime., Larson appeared ready to take the win. Plus, the decision by both Larson and Logano’s crew chiefs to keep their drivers out on old tires (40 laps of wear each) backfired. Austin Dillon took two tires, which helped earn him the runner-up finish.

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Custer made just his second career Xfinity start and finished fourth, topping his previous finish (sixth) and first career start three races ago at Richmond. … Jeb Burton overcame a spin and slight damage during qualifying to finish 11th in Saturday’s race, his second-best finish this season.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Lap 25 was a turning point for a number of drivers. Pole sitter Erik Jones was running second when he got into oil on the track, spun, followed by Daniel Suarez and Elliott Sadler getting into each other, also because of oil on the track. Jones was able to get back on-track and was making his way up the field until he wrecked on Lap 199. He finished 31st. Meanwhile, Suarez and Sadler and Suarez were both able to get their cars repaired and finished 12th and 28th respectively.

NOTABLE: Making his win all the more impressive, Hamlin rebounded from an uncontrolled tire penalty by his team on Lap 160.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It’s hard to beat four tires when you have 40 laps on your tires. I’m disappointed, but I’m used to it.” – Kyle Larson, who went from looking like he’d win to a disappointing sixth-place finish.

WHAT’S NEXT: Pocono Green 250, June 4, Pocono Raceway.

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Charlotte Cup race postponed to Monday by weather


CONCORD, N.C. — All-day rain Sunday forced the postponement of the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Cup Series race to Monday.

The postponement means that Charlotte Motor Speedway is scheduled to host 900 miles of stock car racing Monday. A 300-mile Xfinity Series race, originally scheduled Saturday and first postponed to noon Monday, has been rescheduled for 11 a.m. ET Monday (FS1, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The Cup race is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. (Fox, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Sunday’s Cup race was scheduled to start at 6:21 p.m. ET, but light rain was still falling at that time in the speedway area near Charlotte. Rain intensified a few minutes later and, despite an evening forecast that showed slight improvement, officials decided at 6:30 p.m. to postpone the race.

Monday’s forecast calls for a 34% chance of rain at the start of the Xfinity race and a 30% chance at the start of the Cup race.

William Byron will start the race from the pole after qualifying was washed out Saturday night.

RFK Racing gains sponsorship from submarine recruiting group


CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR racing and submarines? Yes.

RFK Racing announced Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway that it has entered a partnership with BlueForge Alliance, which is involved in securing workers for the U.S. Navy’s Submarine Industrial Base (SIB) program. will be a primary sponsor for RFK drivers Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher in 10 Cup Series races this year and in 18 races per season beginning in 2024.

The sponsorship will showcase the careers related to the submarine-building program across the nation.

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“I’m proud to support a cause of such vital significance to our country with this new partnership,” Keselowski said. “The synergies between a NASCAR team and our military’s needs to stay on track fast are countless. We hope to inspire the workforce of the next generation across the country when they see RFK race and hear our message.”

The sponsorship will support the mission to recruit, hire, train, develop and retain the SIB workforce that will build the Navy’s next generation of submarines, the team said.

“We are excited and grateful to be teaming with RFK Racing to drive awareness of the thousands of steady, well-paying manufacturing jobs available across the nation. Innovation, working with purpose and service to others are hallmarks of both of our organizations,” said Kiley Wren, BlueForge chief executive. “Together, we aim to inspire NASCAR fans and all Americans to pursue career opportunities that will support our national defense.”

Kyle Larson visits Indianapolis Motor Speedway to survey the scene


Former NASCAR champion Kyle Larson, who is scheduled to run the Indianapolis 500 in 2024 as part of an Indy-Charlotte “double,” visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway garage area Sunday on Indianapolis 500 race day.

Larson said he wanted to familiarize himself with the Indy race-day landscape before he becomes immersed in the process next year.

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Larson later returned to Charlotte, where was scheduled to drive in the Coca-Cola 600 Sunday night. Next year, he’s scheduled to run both races.

“I love racing,” Larson told NBC Sports. “I love competing in the biggest races. In my opinion, this is the biggest race in the world. I wanted to be a part of it for a long time, and I finally feel like the timing is right. It’s pretty cool to have a dream come true.

“I wanted to come here and kind of experience it again and get to experience how crazy it is again before I’m in the middle of it next year. I kind of want as little surprise as possible next year.”

In the 2024 500, Larson will be one of four drivers with the Arrow McLaren team.

Earlier this month, Larson and Hendrick Motorsports vice chairman Jeff Gordon attended an Indy 500 practice day.

Larson said Sunday he hasn’t tested an Indy car.

“I don’t know exactly when I’ll get in the car,” he said. “I’ve had no sim (simulator) time yet. I’ve kind of stayed back. I didn’t want to ask too many questions and take any focus on what they have going on for these couple of weeks. I’m sure that will pick up after today.

“I look forward to the challenge. No matter how this experience goes, I’m going to come out of it a better race car driver.”




Jimmie Johnson: Building a team and pointing toward Le Mans


CONCORD, N.C. — These are busy days in the life of former NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson.

Johnson is a co-owner of Legacy Motor Club, the Cup Series team that has struggled through a difficult first half of the season while it also is preparing for a switch from Chevrolet to Toyota next year.

Johnson is driving a very limited schedule for Legacy as he seeks to not only satisfy his passion for racing but also to gain knowledge as he tries to lift Legacy to another level. As part of that endeavor, he’ll race in the Coca-Cola 600 in Legacy’s No. 84 car, making his third appearance of the season.

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And, perhaps the biggest immediate to-do item on Johnson’s list: He’ll race June 10-11 in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world’s biggest endurance race and another of the bucket list races the 47-year-old Johnson will check off his list.

“I’m excited, invigorated, exhausted — all of it,” Johnson said. “It has been a really exciting adventure that I’ve embarked on here — to learn from (Legacy co-owner) Maury Gallagher, to be a part of this great team and learn from everyone that I’m surrounded by. I’m in a whole new element here and it’s very exciting to be in a new element.

“At the same time, there are some foundational pieces coming together, decisions that we’re making, that will really help the team grow in the future. And then we have our job at hand – the situation and environment that we have at hand to deal with in the 2023 season. Depends on the hat that I’m wearing, in some respects. There’s been a lot of work, but a lot of excitement and a lot of fun. I truly feel like I’m a part of something that’s really going to be a force in the future of NASCAR.”

Johnson is scheduled to fly to Paris Monday or Tuesday to continue preparations for the Le Mans race. He, Jenson Button and Mike Rockenfeller will be driving a Hendrick Motorsports-prepared Chevrolet as part of Le Mans’ Garage 56 program, which is designed to offer a Le Mans starting spot for a team testing new technologies.

“For me, it’s really been about identifying marquee races around the world and trying to figure out how to run in them,” Johnson said. “Le Mans is a great example of that. Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600 — these are the marquee events.”

He said his biggest concerns approaching the 24-hour race are being overtaken by faster prototypes in corners and racing at night  while dealing with the very bright lights of cars approaching in his rear view mirrors.

At Legacy, Johnson has work to do. Erik Jones has a top finish of sixth (and one other top 10) this season, and Noah Gragson is still looking for his first top-10 run. He has a best finish of 12th – at Atlanta.

“I think Erik (Jones) continues to show me just how good he is,” Johnson said. “He’s been in some challenging circumstances this year and keeps his head on — focuses, executes and gets the job done. I’ve really been impressed with his ability to stay calm and execute and just how good he is.

“With Noah, from watching him before, I wasn’t sure how serious he took his job in the sport. I knew that he was fast, and I knew that he liked to have fun. I can say in the short time that I’ve really worked with him closely, he still has those two elements, but his desire to be as good as he can in this sport has really impressed me. So I guess ultimately, his commitment to his craft is what’s impressed me the most.”