Tony Stewart smiling again after fifth, but his thoughts are with Bryan Clauson and family


WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – In the bright sunshine of a late Sunday afternoon at Watkins Glen International, it was all smiles for Tony Stewart after exiting the No. 14 Chevrolet.

The three-time series champion joked about benefiting from the overly aggressive tactics of his peers, beamed about his team grinding out its fourth top five in five races and bantered about a reporter’s forearm-length postage stamp tattoo.

“That’s awesome,” Stewart said. “I might borrow that idea if it’s all right and do Columbus, Indiana, on it. That way they know where to send me back if something happens.”

But his mood turned serious when asked about how difficult it was to climb into the No. 14 Chevrolet a few hours earlier while burdened with the knowledge of good friend Bryan Clauson clinging to life after a wicked crash in a Midget race Saturday night.

“It was hard to start the day today in the car,” he said. “It sucks when it’s anybody in racing. It’s hard when you lose them, but it’s even worse when they’re somebody as close to you as Bryan was.

“I feel for Lauren (Clauson’s fiancée) today and Bryan’s parents and his sister, and I hope to be able to see them soon, but just thinking about them more than anything right now.”

Clauson ran for the 2010 USAC Silver Crown championship with Tony Stewart Racing, one of several teams he won with during a storied open-wheel career. He also is a three-time Indianapolis 500 starter and ran in the NASCAR Xfinity Series from 2007-08 with Chip Ganassi Racing (several in the NASCAR industry, including Stewart, expressed their support of Clauson before Sunday’s race).

“Terrible thoughts,” Stewart said when asked about Clauson’s crash in Belleville, Kansas. “It’s a tragedy. That kid drove for us for a long time and did a great job. I don’t care what happened, no matter how bad his day was, he always found a way to smile with it. Him and Lauren being engaged; kid had such a bright future.”

Stewart would be seeing many in the sprint car community soon, heading Sunday night from Watkins Glen to the Knoxville Nationals in Iowa to begin the last off-week of his final season in Sprint Cup.

His fifth top five in 14 starts this season came in a race when he avoided trouble that found many other veterans, particularly in the closing laps.

“The spotter was telling me pairs of guys that were mad at each other,” he said. “I was like, ‘For once I’m not mad at anybody with six laps to go.’ So that was a nice position to be. When you get 10 to go like that, you get restarts, it’s going to be pretty hectic and guys are going to be running into each other and pushing each other out of the way. I’m pretty happy to come out of it with a top five.”

He gave much of the credit to rookie crew chief Mike Bugarweicz, who crafted a solid strategy after Stewart fell all the way to 32nd at the midpoint after serving a stop-and-go penalty for missing the inner loop of the track.

“It wasn’t pretty,” Stewart said. “I faded a little at the beginning and had some problems with our brakes getting hot at the first run there. We kind of just stuck to our strategy, and I’m so impressed with Buga. He’s so good at figuring out the strategy.

“He’s real good at being able to … analyze where we’re at and what we need to do to get where we need to be. I’m pretty excited about how good he is at calling a race like that.”

After missing the first eight races with a fractured back, Stewart has climbed from 40th to 26th in the points and is solidly in the playoffs (thanks to his Sonoma victory) with four races remaining in the regular season. He is ahead of nine drivers who have started every race.

“We just keep being consistent, even on days we don’t have a top 10 or top five car,” he said. “We’re finding ways to make top fives out of it. That’s what you’ve got to do in the Chase. You’ve got to be able to make something out of nothing, and these guys are doing a great job out of that.”

Xfinity starting lineup at Portland: Sheldon Creed wins pole


Sheldon Creed scored his first career Xfinity Series pole by taking the top spot for Saturday’s race at Portland International Raceway.

Creed, making his 50th career series start, earned the pole with a lap of 95.694 mph on the 1.97-mile road course.

MORE: Portland Xfinity starting lineup

Cole Custer will start second with a lap of 95.398 mph. He is followed by Josh Berry (94.242 mph), John Hunter Nemechek (95.127) and Charlotte winner Justin Allgaier (94.897). Road racing specialist Jordan Taylor, driving for Kaulig Racing, qualified sixth at 94.772 mph.

The green flag is scheduled to wave 4:46 p.m. ET Saturday on FS1.

Sunday Cup race at WWT Raceway: Start time, TV info, weather


Twelve races remain until the playoffs begin in early September. Ten drivers have won races. The pressure to secure a playoff spot builds as the Cup Series heads into the summer months.

Details for Sunday’s Cup race at WWT Raceway

(All times Eastern)

START: Six-time Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee will give the command to start engines at 3:32 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:42 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 12:30 p.m. … Drivers meeting is at 2:40 p.m. … Driver intros are at 2:55 p.m. … Tim Bounds, pastor at The Crossing Church St. Louis, will give the invocation at 3:24 p.m. … The national anthem will be performed by Bebe Winans and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra at 3:25 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 240 laps (300 miles) on the 1.25-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 45. Stage 2 ends at Lap 140.

STARTING LINEUP: Cup starting lineup

TV/RADIO: FS1 will broadcast the race at 3:30 p.m. … Coverage begins at 2 p.m. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. and also will stream at SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.


FORECAST: Weather Underground — Partly cloudy with a high of 90 degrees and a 15% chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST YEAR: Joey Logano won the inaugural Cup race at this track. Kyle Busch was second. Kurt Busch placed third.


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Cup starting lineup at World Wide Technology Raceway


Kyle Busch will lead the Cup starting lineup to the green flag in Sunday’s Cup race at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois.

Busch will be joined on the front row by Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney.

MORE: Cup starting lineup

The second row will have Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick. The third row has Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano.

Corey LaJoie, driving the No. 9 car in place of the suspended Chase Elliott, qualified 30th after hitting the wall on his lap.

The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:42 p.m. ET Sunday on FS1.

Kyle Busch wins Cup pole at WWT Raceway


Kyle Busch collected his first Cup pole of the season and will lead the field to the green flag in Sunday’s race at World Wide Technology Raceway.

Busch last won a Cup pole at Phoenix in November 2019. He earned his 33rd career Cup pole Saturday with a lap of 137.187 mph on the 1.25-mile speedway.

MORE: Cup starting lineup

“Being able to get a pole here with Richard Childress Racing, Team Chevy and everybody on this No. 8 team is good for us and just try to get some momentum rolling,” Busch said. “Our short track stuff hasn’t been the greatest this year so far, but this isn’t the short track aero package here this weekend, so that might pay dividends hopefully for us to just have a better day than what we anticipated. Just excited to have the guys pumped up and raring to go, and knowing that their hard work is paying off.”

Busch will be joined on the front row by Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney, who qualified at 137.153 mph. Blaney’s car failed inspection twice before qualifying. He will lose his pit selection for Sunday’s race. His car chief also was ejected. Brad Keselowski‘s car also failed inspection twice before qualifying. He loses pit selection and had the team’s car chief ejected. Keselowski qualified 19th with a lap of 135.743 mph.

Denny Hamlin (136.903 mph) starts third and is followed by Kevin Harvick (136.766) and Martin Truex Jr. (136.360). Harvick has two top-five starts this season and both have come in the last two events.

“I think we have a little bit of work to do on our car in race trim, but a lot of it is just getting into a rhythm I think – more than anything,” Harvick said. “Qualifying, we were just a little bit tight through Turns 1 and 2, and the car was good in 3 and 4. So, we have to have a better balance, and that’s what probably cost us a little bit of speed to get the pole. But, still a good day and a good starting spot.”

Corey LaJoie, subbing for the suspended Chase Elliott, will start 30th after hitting the wall on his qualifying lap. He qualified at 134.561 mph. Carson Hocevar, making in his Cup debut in LaJoie’s car, qualified 26th with a lap of 135.220 mph.

Green flag for Sunday’s race is scheduled to wave at 3:42 p.m. ET on FS1.