Getty Images

How Sprint Cup stars fared in their first 100 starts

2 Comments

Probably the only person more relieved than Kyle Larson after his win Sunday at Michigan was team owner Chip Ganassi.

“I remember when I got into this business, James Finch told me it took a hundred races before these guys could figure it out,” Ganassi said. “Thank God we beat the triple digit by one.”

Larson, who earned his first Sprint Cup win, was seven days away from making his 100th career start in NASCAR’s premier series.

The 24-year-old driver made his first foray into the series on Oct. 12, 2013 in the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Driving the No. 51 for HScott Motorsports, Larson finished 37th after engine failure on Lap 247.

Larson has 15 top fives, 35 tops 10s, 350 laps led and one pole (Pocono, Aug. 2014). He also has 13 DNFs. Larson’s win gives him an average finish of 16.5 heading into his 100th start, Sunday’s Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

“We’ve been close a few times throughout my Sprint Cup career,” said Larson, who finished second four times before his triumph. “To finally put it all together and get a win, it’s awesome. Glad to get it before my hundredth start next week.”

Here’s a look at how some of Larson’s young peers and a few NASCAR legends fared in their first 100 starts.

Austin Dillon

Career starts: 109

First start: 2011 Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway (Finished 26th, two laps down)

100th start: 2016 FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway (Started and finished eighth)

Stats in first 100 starts: two poles, five top fives, 16 tops 10s, 52 laps led and five DNFs

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Career starts: 136

First start: 2011 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (Finished 11th)

100th start: 2015 Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway (Finished 21st, four laps down)

Stats in first 100 starts: one pole, three top fives, nine top 10s, 36 laps led and six DNFs

WATKINS GLEN, NY - AUGUST 11: Kyle Busch, driver of the #5 Kellogg's/CARQUEST Chevrolet, drives during practice for the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Centurion Boats at The Glen at Watkins Glen International on August 11, 2007 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kyle Busch made his 100th Sprint Cup start in 2007 at Watkins Glen International. Busch still drove for Hendrick Motorsports. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Kyle Busch

Career starts: 414

First start: 2004 UAW-Daimler Chrysler 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Finished 40th, crash)

100th start: 2007 Centurion Boats at Watkins Glen International (Finished seventh)

Stats in first 100 starts: Four wins, two poles, 24 tops fives, 43 top 10s,  1,107 laps led and 15 DNFs

Brad Keselowski

Career starts: 257

First start: 2008 Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway (Finished 19th, two laps down)

100th start: 2012 Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway (Started and finished 15th)

Stats in first 100 starts: Six wins, two poles, 14 top fives, 25 tops 10s, 598 laps led and eight DNFs

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Career starts: 595

First start: 1999 Coca-Cola 600 (Finished 16th, three laps down)

100th start: 20o2 Mountain Dew 500 (Finished 16th)

Stats in first 100 starts: Six wins, five poles, 18 top fives, 30 top 10s, 1,919 laps led and 15 DNFs

FONTANA, CA - SEPTEMBER 4: Jimmie Johnson driving the #48 Lowes Chevrolet during practice for the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Pop Secret 500 on September 4, 2004 at California Speedway in Fontana, California. (Photo by Gavin Lawrence/Getty Images).
Jimmie Johnson made his 100th Sprint Cup Series start on Sept. 4, 2004 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by Gavin Lawrence/Getty Images).

Jimmie Johnson

Career start: 531

First start: 2001 UAW-GM Quality 500 at Charlotte (Finished 39th, crash)

100th start: 2004 Pop Secret at Auto Club Speedway (Finished 14th)

Stats in first 100 starts: 10 wins, seven poles, 35 top 10s, 57 top 10s,  2, 481 laps led and 12 DNFs

Tony Stewart

Career starts: 606

First start: 1999 Daytona 500 (Finished 28th, 19 laps down)

100th start: 2001 Pop Secret Microwave Popcorn 400 at North Carolina Speedway (Finished seventh)

Stats in first 100 starts: 12 wins, four poles, 38 top fives, 64 top 10s,  2, 795 laps led and 10 DNFs

Bubba Wallace to receive Stan Musial award for extraordinary character

Leave a comment

Following months of speaking out in support of racial justice and inclusion in NASCAR, Bubba Wallace‘s work has been recognized by The Musial Awards.

The Richard Petty Motorsports driver has been selected as the recipient of its Award for Extraordinary Character.

The award honors “an individual who demonstrates remarkable poise, perseverance and overall sportsmanship.”

The Musial Awards – presented by Maryville University in St. Louis – is named after Stan Musial, a former St. Louis Cardinal baseball player. St. Louis is also the home to one of Wallace’s sponsors, World Wide Technology.

More: Michael Jordan excited for NASCAR future with Denny Hamlin

In the wake of the death of George Floyd in May, the 26-year-old Wallace has been active in helping lead NASCAR through social changes, including the banning of the Confederate flag at series events and tracks.

He also drove a Black Lives Matter car at Martinsville Speedway in June.

“Bubba Wallace exemplifies what the Stan Musial Award for Extraordinary Character is all about,” Frank Viverito, president of the St. Louis Sports Commission, which produces the Musial Awards, said in a press release. “He has overcome much to be where he is, and he has courageously stepped forward to take an important stand for change. He is most deserving of an award that stands for sportsmanship and character, and is named for Stan Musial, whose own actions promoted racial acceptance and unity.”

Wallace joins baseball legend Hank Aaron as a 2020 Musial Awards honoree. Aaron is receiving the Stan Musial Lifetime Achievement Award for Sportsmanship.

The Musial Awards will air nationally on CBS on Saturday, Dec. 26.

After three full-time seasons in Cup racing for RPM, it was announced earlier this week that Wallace would compete in 2021 for a Cup team co-owned by Denny Hamlin and basketball legend Michael Jordan.

Michael Jordan excited for NASCAR future with Denny Hamlin

Leave a comment

The most anticipated NASCAR team in years started with a joke.

Denny Hamlin said he was only kidding about owning a Cup team with Michael Jordan after reports linked the two in such an endeavor.

“Looks like we’re owners together, ha, ha,” Hamlin told Jordan. “Congratulations. He said, ‘Fake news, but if you want to make it real news, let me know.’ ”

Suddenly a team that will have Jordan and Hamlin as partners, Bubba Wallace as driver and potentially a far-reaching impact on the sport and Black community was born. Jordan said it all happened within 10 days.

Jordan and Hamlin discussed exclusively with NBC Sports and Fox on Wednesday their vision for their new team. Jordan, a six-time NBA champion, and Hamlin a three-time Daytona 500 winner, both look to win and plan to stay around for a long time.

Details have yet to be announced about a car number, sponsors, and manufacturer, although the team is expected to run Toyotas and align with Joe Gibbs Racing. Jordan, who becomes the first Black majority car owner since Wendell Scott, said Wednesday that when the sport opens up the infield to more than drivers and teams, he’ll be at the track often.

Hamlin admits Jordan’s reaction to his joke stunned him. It was only last November when Jordan told Dale Earnhardt Jr. in an interview on NBC before the championship race that he didn’t plan to be an owner.

“I’ve got a lot on my plate,” Jordan told Earnhardt then. “I love being a fan. I still understand the sport, but in terms of ownership, nah, I think I’m just going to sit back and watch it and support from afar.”

Jordan told NBC Sports on Wednesday that the timing was right when Hamlin joked with him.

“It was one of those things, again, it’s always been on my mind,” Jordan said of NASCAR team ownership. “I go with my gut feeling. When the time is right you know it. When this was presented to me, I felt good about it. When Bubba was involved in the whole conversation I felt good about it.

“My biggest conversation to Denny was, ‘Look, I don’t want to get in there just to go around the races and just go around and around and around and finish up 18th, 19th, 20th, 30th. I want to win. I want to be put in a position for the best chance for us to win. That’s my competitive nature. That’s always been who I am.

“When we got into this dialogue and I saw that OK, I might have a chance if we can put together the right situation to possibly win. That became more intriguing. That was my mindset going into this.

“I remember the conversation with Dale Earnhardt (last November). In essence, I love the sport. I was looking for an entry opportunity. This was the opportunity that was just presented to me in just the last 10 days.”

Hamlin said the competitive nature he and Jordan both have will ensure that “we will not do this team halfway. It will be a top-tier team sooner than later.” Hamlin said he will continue to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing while owning the team with Jordan.

“I have very good faith that Bubba is going to have everything that he needs to be capable of winning, and I think he’s got the talent to do it,” Hamlin said. “But still there would be growing pains here and there just like any team would have.”

Brad Daugherty, the only Black co-owner of a Cup team before Jordan’s entry, is looking forward to what Jordan’s team will do.

“I think it’s a pretty dynamic trio with Michael, Denny and Bubba,” said Daugherty, co-owner of JTG Daugherty Racing and teammate to Jordan on the University of North Carolina basketball team. “They’re going to be like rock stars.”

Part of the timing being right was the social change NASCAR has gone through this year. Drivers put together a video in a show of support for the Black community in June. NASCAR banned the Confederate flag at its tracks and races soon after. Drivers rallied around Wallace in June at Talladega after it was thought he was the victim of a hate crime.

Jordan said one of his main goals is to create more opportunities for Black people in racing.

“It’s huge,” he said. “It’s absolutely huge. To me, you’re basically diving into a situation where very few Black people have been present into the NASCAR arena. In essence, you’re going in with the opportunity to expand that and to give a different lens to NASCAR as a whole. For so long, it’s been viewed from a negative aspect with the Confederate flag and all these other things that occurred.

“Now you go in with NASCAR making an effort to change the perspective and try to attract and connect to the next generation without losing something for today’s authenticity of the sport presented an opportunity for me to get involved in this whole process and know that I am spearheading a thought process of Blacks getting involved in NASCAR when in essence very few have since 1960s (when Wendell Scott competed and owned his own cars).”

Although Jordan unquestionably is the biggest celebrity to enter NASCAR, the sport’s history is littered with former athletes and celebrities who have come and gone as co-owners in teams.

Jordan said he plans to be in the sport for a long time.

“I’m not doing this to try to look at the financials,” Jordan said. “The financials are part of the process, but my passion drives me more than the financials. If I invest or not invest, I was still going to call Denny each and every Sunday and ask him what the hell is he doing, is he going to win today, what is he going to do, what happened?

“I’ve been a fan for so long, so I’m always going to be that. With making money or losing money, I’m going to be a fan to NASCAR. This is authenticity in the making for me in that I’m involved in something that I truly, truly love and I wake up each and every weekend looking forward to each and every race.”

Jordan’s interest goes to his childhood when his father used to take his family to the race.

“He was a big car person,” Jordan said of his father. “He used to work on engines for years. He became a big stock-car fan and he bredded us to do the same. Went to Darlington, Rockingham, Charlotte, Talladega. (Long-time NASCAR car owner) Hoss Ellington used to be from Wilmington and he used to work on cars with Hoss Ellington way back in the day. I’ve been involved in car racing for a long period of time as a fan.”

Jordan’s entrance has created an excitement in the sport for what he can potentially deliver in terms of a wider audience and potential connections with different companies. But there’s only so much one person can do to help elevate the sport. It is a more complicated puzzle.

“I’m a fan of the sport first,” Jordan said. “I love sports. I love, love NASCAR. I don’t go into with the idea and concept that I’m trying to change and shape NASCAR. I go in with my passion. I hope that whoever knows Michael Jordan or whoever supports Michael Jordan, whoever supports NASCAR see this as an opportunity to enjoy the sport.

“If we can introduce it to the next generation, to at least gauge an interest, that’s a beginning there. How that translates economically, I have no understanding of that. Those are things that I’m not in control of. All I can do is show the passion for the sport and hopefully people can understand that passion and adapt to that.

“The business aspect is the business aspect. … I go in because I love sports and then I get all these different other conversations, all these other people calling, saying, ‘hey, look, that’s pretty interesting, I would love to be involved.’ To me, that’s change. That’s how this is going to work. It may not work from a perspective of what people may expect.

“I don’t know what the agendas may be or what the barometer may be, but at the end of the day, I love that I got involved in NASCAR and if people appreciate that and want to be a part of that, great. If not, it’s not going to change my involvement. I just want to continually win.”

 and on Facebook

Las Vegas Truck lineup

Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Brett Moffitt will lead the Las Vegas Truck lineup to the green flag in Friday night’s payoff race.

Moffitt is coming off his runner-up finish to Sam Mayer in last week’s Truck playoff race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Tyler Ankrum will start second in Friday night’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He’ll be followed by Grant Enfinger, Sheldon Creed and Chandler Smith. Austin Hill starts 11th, last among the playoff drivers.

Click here for Truck starting lineup

The Las Vegas Truck lineup is set by using a formula based on four statistical categories: owner points position, owner final race position, the finish and fastest lap from the most recently completed race.

Performance Metrics Qualifying is a total number based on the previous race. The formula is 15% of a fastest lap time position, 25% of the driver’s final race finish position, 25% of the owner’s final race position and 35% of the owner points position. Any ties will be broken by the rule book.

 

NASCAR Truck Series at Las Vegas 

Race time: 9 p.m. ET, Friday

Track: Las Vegas Motor Speedway; Las Vegas, Nevada (1.5-mile speedway)

Length: 134 laps (201 miles)

Stages: Stage 1 ends Lap 30. Stage 2 ends Lap 60.

TV coverage: FS1

Radio: Motor Racing Network (also SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Streaming: Fox Sports app (subscription required); mrn.com and SiriusXM for audio (subscription required)

Lineup: Click here for Truck starting lineup

Next Xfinity race: Saturday at Las Vegas (200 laps, 300 miles), 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Next Cup race: Sunday at Las Vegas (267 laps, 400.5 miles), 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Las Vegas Xfinity lineup

Leave a comment

Chase Briscoe will lead the Las Vegas Xfinity lineup to the green flag as the series begins its playoffs Saturday night.

Briscoe enters the playoffs after his seventh win of the season last weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway. He has seven victories so far, two more than Austin Cindric who will start second Saturday night.

Justin Allgaier, who has won three of the last seven races, starts third. He’s followed by Ross Chastain and Harrison Burton. Michael Annett starts 13th, last among the playoff drivers.

Click here for Xfinity starting lineup

The opening round of the Xfinity playoffs goes to Talladega after Las Vegas and ends with the Charlotte Roval. The playoff field will be cut to eight drivers at Charlotte.

The Las Vegas Xfinity lineup is set by using a formula based on four statistical categories: owner points position, owner final race position, the finish and fastest lap from the most recently completed race.

Performance Metrics Qualifying is a total number based on the previous race. The formula is 15% of a fastest lap time position, 25% of the driver’s final race finish position, 25% of the owner’s final race position and 35% of the owner points position. Any ties will be broken by the rule book.

NASCAR Xfinity Series at Las Vegas 

Race time: 7:30 p.m. ET, Saturday

Track: Las Vegas Motor Speedway; Las Vegas, Nevada (1.5-mile speedway)

Length: 200 laps (300 miles)

Stages: Stage 1 ends Lap 45. Stage 2 ends Lap 90.

TV coverage: NBCSN

Radio: Performance Racing Network (also SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Streaming: NBC Sports app (subscription required); goprn.com and SiriusXM for audio (subscription required)

Lineup: Click here for Xfinity starting lineup

Next Truck race: Friday at Las Vegas (134 laps, 201 miles), 9 p.m. ET on FS1

Next Cup race: Sunday at Las Vegas (267 laps, 400.5 miles), 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN