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Upon Further Review: The emotions of Darlington


DARLINGTON, S.C. — While Kevin Harvick stewed, Martin Truex Jr. celebrated after Sunday’s Southern 500.

But Truex could relate, in a way, to Harvick’s frustration after having a chance at victory go away. Issues on pit road cost Harvick several spots, dropping him out of the lead twice during the race. Whether it has been mistakes or bad luck, Truex has had similar experiences even in a year where he’s won two of the biggest races of the season — the Coca-Cola 600 and the Southern 500.

Last week at Michigan, the left rear tire was not set on Truex’s car when the jack dropped. The incident damaged the left rear quarter panel, resulting in a 20th-place finish. It was one of 10 incidents on pit road this season — from contact with another car to lug nuts knocking off the inner valve stem to speeding penalties — that have plagued Truex and his team.

“We’ve had so many things happen to us throughout the summer,’’ Truex told NBC Sports after his Southern 500 win. “We show up at the race track, we have confidence in what we’re doing. We know we have the speed, and we know if we can just put it all tighter we’ll be fine. Really we didn’t do anything different (Sunday) than the last couple of weeks or for all summer or for all season for that matter. We just did our thing and the race came to us.’’

Asked if he believed that some of his bad luck could even out, Truex said: “I would hope at some point it would. That’s the only thing that keeps your head above water when all those things are happening, it keeps trying to pull you under. You get up and you say the next week it’s going to change and it can’t happen again and it does and then you’re like ‘OK next week it’s going to change.’ You continue to come back and work hard.’’

Truex said that it is important how the team handles and addresses mistakes and misfortune.

“When we do things wrong, absolutely we talk about it,’’ Truex said. “We’re our biggest critics. If I screw up, I’m going to try to figure out how to fix it, and I’m going to tell my guys I’m sorry and I’m not going to let it happen again, and they do the same and that was proof with the pit crew this week (after their Michigan miscue) with how hard they worked. Look at what they did.’’

Truex credited his pit crew with getting him off pit road first during their next-to-last stop on Lap 328. Ryan Newman and Brad Keselowski stayed out, putting Truex third on the restart. Truex took the lead on Lap 339. He led all but one lap the rest of the way to earn his second victory of the season.


Martin Truex Jr.’s Southern 500 victory helped him clinch NASCAR’s Grand Slam title Sunday.

Truex had an average finish of 3.0 for the sport’s four biggest races: Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600, Brickyard 400 and Southern 500.

He won the Coca-Cola 600 and Southern 500, finished second in the Daytona 500 by inches to Denny Hamlin and placed eighth in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis.

Here are the drivers with the best average finish in those four races this year:

3.0 — Martin Truex Jr.

3.25 — Denny Hamlin

3.5 — Kevin Harvick

6.75 — Joey Logano

7.0 — Kyle Larson

Kevin Harvick’s runner-up finish marked the 11th consecutive Grand Slam race that he has finished in the top 10. The last time Harvick did not place in the top 10 in either the Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600, Brickyard 400 or Southern 500 was the 2014 Daytona 500 — his first race at Stewart-Haas Racing. Harvick’s average finish in those races during that span is 4.0.

The next longest active streak of top-10 finishes in Grand Slam races is nine by Denny Hamlin after he placed fourth in the Southern 500. His average finish in that streak is 4.0

On the manufacturer side, Truex’s win marked the seventh consecutive Grand Slam race Toyota has won.


After his burnout, Elliott Sadler climbed from his victorious Xfinity car, stood on it as the fans cheered Saturday at Darlington and held his head in his hands.

It was a win at Darlington and so much more.

“To try to be candid with you, a month ago I was retired,’’ Sadler said, noting that sponsor One Main announced in July that it would not return after this season, leaving Sadler without a sponsor and likely a ride.

“I didn’t really know what else I was going to do. I wanted to keep racing, but you’re never guaranteed anything in this sport. To go from maybe being retired to winning a race at Darlington, a place that I came here as a kid, is a pretty doggone lot of emotions.’’

One Main reversed course last month and announced it would remain in the sport, signing a multi-year extension with JR Motorsports, giving Sadler a home.

That’s only part of the emotional roller-coaster Sadler has been on lately. His mother was hospitalized in intensive care recently before returning home.

“My mom is getting better,’’ Sadler said. “She still has to have another surgery in a couple of weeks. She is getting better. From the Sunday after Watkins Glen … to know she’s went from maybe not having her anymore to now, she’s come a long way. That’s been pretty emotional.’’


— Kevin Harvick’s runner-up finish was his 23rd such finish since joining Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014. He has 33 top-two finishes in 97 starts for SHR. Harvick is averaging a top-two finish in 34 percent of his starts with the organization.

— The last eight Sprint Cup races have each been won by a different driver.

— Denny Hamlin’s fourth-place finish marked his seventh consecutive top-10 result.

Chris Buescher’s 17th-place finish was his fourth top-20 in the last six races. He had two top-20 finishes in the season’s first 19 races.

— After opening the season with 14 top-10 finishes in the first 16 races, Kurt Busch has two top-10 finishes in the last nine races.

Kasey Kahne’s seventh-place finish was his first top-10 result in the last nine races.

— Hendrick Motorsports is winless in its last 20 races. That ties for the fourth-longest winless drought in team history. The team went 20 races without a win in the 1989-90 seasons. The team’s longest drought was 40 races between 1991 and ’92.

Jeff Gordon continues to seek his first top-10 finish since filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 car. Gordon finished 13th at Indianapolis, 27th at Pocono, 14th at Watkins Glen, 11th at Bristol and 14th at Darlington. Gordon will be in Earnhardt’s car this weekend at Richmond.

Danica Patrick’s 24th-place finish continued a trend. In the last six races, she has finished between 21st and 24th in each event.

Bubba Wallace to receive Stan Musial award for extraordinary character

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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

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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.”

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Las Vegas Truck lineup

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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); 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

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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); 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