Pennsylvania 400: Chris Buescher wins first fog-shortened Sprint Cup race in 44 years

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Chris Buescher has had a rough – some might go so far as to say foggy – rookie season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

But in Monday’s rescheduled Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway, fog was definitely Buescher’s best friend as not being able to see the racetrack ultimately sent him to victory lane for the first time in his 27th career Sprint Cup start.

NASCAR halted the race, which was originally postponed from Sunday to Monday because of rain, with 22 laps remaining in the scheduled 160-lap event. Before it was called, the race had been red-flagged for an hour and 16 minutes by a heavy fog layer impeding visibility at the 2.5-mile “Tricky Triangle.”

While NASCAR drivers waited by their cars on pit road for the fog to lift, the rain returned to scrub the final 22 laps. As a result, Buescher — who took the lead on Lap 127 when race leader Austin Dillon pitted — earned his first career Sprint Cup win, as well as the first victory for Front Row Motorsports in 118 races (since FRM’s first Cup win as an organization with David Ragan behind the wheel at Talladega in May 2013).

MORE: Dillon, Newman climb in points; Elliott falls two spots

MORE: Results from Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway

“(This is) pretty awesome, wild circumstances here at Pocono,” Buescher said in a makeshift victory lane that was moved inside due to pounding rain outside.

“This is gonna change our whole year right here, so this puts us in a good situation where we had a good day. It was a lot of fun. The guys really toughed it out. We got a flat tire, but we’re headed in the right direction now, so that will help in points. We got a win here, so we’ll take it any way we can get it.”

The last NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race to be so affected by fog was the 1972 Winston Western 500 at Riverside International Raceway. Richard Petty won after the scheduled 191-lap race in Riverside, California, was shortened to 149 laps by fog.

With the win, Buescher moved closer but still isn’t quite eligible to make the 16-driver field for the upcoming Chase for the Sprint Cup. He leaves Pocono six points shy of 30th place in the standings.

Buescher, who becomes the 12th different driver to win a race this season, must be within the top-30 in the points standings after the regular-season finale Sept. 10 at Richmond International Raceway.

Buescher’s previous career-best finish in the Sprint Cup Series was 14th last week at the Brickyard 400 Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Prior to that, Buescher’s best finish was 18th at Dover in June.

Brad Keselowski finished second, followed by Regan Smith, Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart.

Sixth through 10th were Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch.

HOW BUESCHER WON: Veteran crew chief Bob Osborne made an outstanding call to keep his driver on the racetrack while other drivers pitted around Laps 125-127. As a result, Buescher assumed the lead from Austin Dillon and earned his first career win. It was also Osborne’s 19th career win as a Sprint Cup crew chief.

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Third-place finisher Regan Smith equaled Tommy Baldwin Racing’s best finish ever in Sprint Cup competition (Dave Blaney, Fall 2011, Talladega). … Tony Stewart earned his second consecutive fifth-place finish and fourth top-five (including his win at Sonoma) in the last six races. … Kyle Larson continues to get closer to his first career Sprint Cup win. He led 37 laps, second-most of any driver, before finishing sixth.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Pole-sitter Martin Truex Jr. had a day he’d rather forget, suffering three tire failures through the course of the race and finishing 38th. … Joey Logano, who led a race-high 38 laps, appeared as if he had the car to win until Chase Elliott made contact with Logano on Lap 105, sending the latter into the wall. Logano finished 37th, while Elliott finished 33rd. … Aric Almirola’s day came to an end early when he wrecked with Jeb Burton, each driver finishing 39th and 36th, respectively.

NOTABLE: Buescher becomes the third driver to earn his first career Sprint Cup win at Pocono. The others were Jeremy Mayfield (June 1998) and Denny Hamlin (June 2006). He also becomes the first Rookie of the Year contender to win a Cup race since Joey Logano did so in 2009. … Regan Smith’s runner-up finish is the best showing ever for Tommy Baldwin Racing.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Yeah, we’ll walk in here. This is going to stir up our whole year. …. Now we have to make sure we’re top-30 in points (after Richmond to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup).” – Race-winner Chris Buescher on walking inside for victory celebration instead of driving into Victory Lane.

WHAT’S NEXT: Cheez-It 355 At The Glen, August 7, at Watkins Glen International. The race starts at 2:30 p.m. ET and will be televised on the USA Network. The series then has its final off-weekend of the season on Aug. 14 before the schedule resumes at Bristol on Saturday night, Aug. 20.

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NASCAR Championship Weekend returns to Phoenix in 2024

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Phoenix Raceway will host the championship races for the Cup, Xfinity, Craftsman Truck and ARCA Menards Series in 2024, NASCAR announced Wednesday.

The races will be held Nov. 1-3, 2024. The Cup season finale will be Nov. 3, 2024. The only other Cup race for 2024 that has been announced is the Daytona 500. It will be held Feb. 18, 2024.

Phoenix Raceway has hosted the championship finale for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks since 2020. Chase Elliott won the Cup title there in 2020. Kyle Larson followed in 2021. Joey Logano won the crown there in 2022.

This year’s Cup finale at Phoenix will be Nov. 5 and air on NBC.

 

 

Drivers to watch at World Wide Technology Raceway

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After the fireworks from the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR heads to World Wide Technology Raceway, a 1.25-mile speedway just outside of St. Louis. Sunday’s race (3:30 p.m. ET on FS1) marks the second time the Cup Series has raced at this track.

Much is at stake. The race to win the regular season championship has intensified. Tempers are high. The pressure to make the playoffs builds. Ten drivers have wins this season. Twelve races remain in the regular season.

FRONTRUNNERS

Kyle Larson

  • Points position: 11th
  • Best finish this season: 1st (Richmond, Martinsville)
  • Past at WWTR: 12th last year

While a driver coming off back-to-back finishes of 20th or worse might not seem like a frontrunner, it actually does make Larson one. His topsy-turvy season has seen him place outside the top 10 in back-to-back races four times. In the three previous times he had consecutive finishes outside the top 10, he came back to finish second, first and second. Can he keep that streak going this weekend?

Bubba Wallace

  • Points position: 15th
  • Best finish this season: 4th (Las Vegas I, Kansas I, Coca-Cola 600)
  • Past at WWTR: 26th last year

Wallace has scored three consecutive top-five finishes, his best streak in his Cup career. He has climbed from 21st to 15th in the standings during this run.

William Byron

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Best finish this season: 1st (Las Vegas I, Phoenix I, Darlington I)
  • Past at WWTR: 19th last year

Byron has finished no worse than seventh in the last five races. He’s led nearly 20% of the laps run during that time. Byron has averaged nearly 47 points a race during that streak.

QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

Corey LaJoie

  • Points position: 20th
  • Best finish this season: 4th (Atlanta I)
  • Past at WWTR: 36th last season

NASCAR’s one-race suspension to Chase Elliott gives LaJoie the chance to drive a Hendrick Motorsports car for the first time. This will be the best car LaJoie has driven in his career. Many eyes will be on him to see how he does.

Ross Chastain

Chastain has finished 29th and 22nd in the last two points races. He’s not gone more than three races without a top-10 finish this season. After his struggles last weekend at Charlotte, Chastain saw his lead cut to one point over Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney in the standings. Five drivers are within 17 points of Chastain in the season standings.

Aric Almirola

  • Points position: 26th
  • Best finish this season: 6th (Martinsville I)
  • Past at WWTR: 5th last year

Almirola has finished 13th or worse in all but one race this season for Stewart-Haas Racing. In the five races since placing sixth at Martinsville, Almirola has finished an average of 21.0.

NASCAR suspends Chase Elliott one race for incident with Denny Hamlin

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NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one Cup race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600, the sanctioning body announced Tuesday.

“We take this very seriously,” Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition, said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The incident that happened off Turn 4, again after looking at all the available resources — in-car camera, data, SMT, which basically gives us (a car’s) steering, throttle, gives us braking — it was an intentional act by Chase in our opinion.”

Hendrick Motorsports stated that it would not appeal the penalty. Corey LaJoie will drive the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports this weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway. Carson Hocevar will drive LaJoie’s car this weekend.

Hendrick Motorsports also stated that it would submit a waiver request for Elliott to remain eligible for the playoffs. Sawyer said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “I don’t see any reason at this point in time why wouldn’t (grant the waiver) when that request comes across our desk.”

This weekend will mark the seventh race in the first 15 that Elliott will have missed. He missed six races after breaking his leg in a snowboarding accident in early March. Elliott, who is winless this season, is 29th in points.

Elliott and Hamlin got together shortly before the halfway mark in Monday’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

As they ran together, Hamlin forced Elliott toward the wall. Elliott’s car slapped the wall. Elliott then made contact with the right rear of Hamlin’s car, sending Hamlin into the wall.

“I got right-rear hooked in the middle of the straightway,” Hamlin said after the incident. “Yes, it was a tantrum. He shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”

Said Sawyer on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio: “In the heat of the battle, things happen, but they have to learn to react in a different way. … Our drivers need to understand that you have to handle that in a completely different way than hooking someone in the right rear and putting them in harm’s way, not only with just a major head-on collision like Denny had, but also other competitors.”

Sawyer also said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “nothing gave us the indication that on that particular contact with the fourth-turn wall … that anything was broke” on Elliott’s car and could have caused him to come down and hit Hamlin’s car in the right rear.

NASCAR also announced that Scott Brzozowski and Adam Lewis, crew members on Michael McDowell‘s team, had each been suspended two races after McDowell’s car lost a tire in Monday’s race.

Winners and losers at Charlotte Motor Speedway

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A look at winners and losers from Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway:

WINNERS

Ryan Blaney — Blaney stopped his winless streak at 59 races and gave team owner Roger Penske his second major race victory in two days. Blaney had the best car but had to fight through restarts late in the race to win.

William Byron — Byron, the winningest driver this season, barely missed getting victory No. 4. He finished second and scored his fifth straight top 10.

Martin Truex Jr. — Truex logged his third top five of the season.

23XI RacingBubba Wallace was fourth and Tyler Reddick fifth, giving 23XI Racing a pair of top-five finishes for the first time in a points race.

LOSERS

Jimmie Johnson — The seven-time champion admitted having problems adjusting to the Next Gen car on a 1.5-mile track. He crashed early and finished last.

Legacy Motor Club — It was a bad night for Jimmie Johnson and his team’s drivers. Johnson finished last in the 37-car field. Noah Gragson was 36th. Erik Jones placed 32nd.

Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin — Two drivers who had strong cars didn’t make it to the finish after crashing near the halfway point. Hamlin said Elliott “shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”