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Kyle Busch finds runner-up finish in Daytona 500 ‘bittersweet’

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In his 14th attempt to conquer it, Kyle Busch had “probably the best chance” to win the Daytona 500.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver did earn his best finish in the event, but he was one spot shy of sending his No. 18 Toyota to victory lane.

Busch placed second in the middle of a Joe Gibbs Racing sandwich led by Denny Hamlin and completed by Erik Jones.

It is the first 1-2-3 finish for JGR since it began competing in Cup in 1992.

Busch’s previous best finish in the 500 was third in 2016.

The moment was made more “bittersweet” for Busch with it being the first race since the passing of J.D. Gibbs, the son of Joe Gibbs and co-founder of JGR.

“I’d have much rather have been the one to win the race and be in victory lane and celebrating with my team and with everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing and being a part of the J.D. celebration,” Busch said. “But overall, you know, you couldn’t be more thrilled for all the 500 people back at Joe Gibbs Racing that knew and respected and obviously looked up to J.D. for the person that he was and for the relationships that he gave all of us.”

Entering the only attempt at an overtime finish, Busch restarted second to Hamlin on the inside lane. Busch had agreed to let Hamlin in front of him at the drop of the green flag.

“It’s first and foremost to try to make sure that we at least get a JGR car to victory lane,” Busch said of the decision. “They didn’t want to do it the previous restart, but then since (Hamlin) got the lead, he wanted to do it again.”

Over the final two laps Busch had to find a way around his teammate at the right moment while he fended off charges from Jones, Joey Logano, Ryan Preece and Michael McDowell.

The opening never came.

With Hamlin out to a healthy lead exiting Turn 4 on the last lap, Busch had to sidedraft Logano on the outside to sweep around him to second place.

A winner of 51 Cup races, Busch will wait until his 15th Daytona 500 to get another shot at the “Great American Race.”

The race’s final run capped off a stretch where Hamlin and Busch led the final 38 laps.

“There at the end I think it was just track position, how we came off pit road,” Busch said. “The 11 and the 18 kind of kept the front of the field at bay for the rest of the day after … 30 to go.

“I think it was pretty evenly matched as the day went on, and we kind of saw that some of the Toyotas and ‑‑ I don’t know if it was just coincidence or what, but some of the Chevys were kind of working, and the speed was there in those situations to keep up with the Fords.”

Busch led four times for 47 of the race’s 207 laps and won the first stage of the race. He held the point position from Laps 191 – 198, which coincided with two of the three major wrecks in the final 20 laps.

“Brains come unglued. That’s all it is,” Busch said. “The brain connection from right up here to the gas pedal foot doesn’t quite work the same anymore. … I think I’ve been caught up in plenty of those.  It was nice to be in front of all of that tonight.”

 

Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, Denny Hamlin head to Short Track title race

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Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell both advanced to Thursday’s championship race of the NBC eSports Short Track iRacing Challenge after winning their heat races at a virtual Lucas Oil Raceway on Tuesday night.

Larson led all 40 laps in the first heat race after starting on the front row. He beat Chase Briscoe and Harrison Burton.

“I was a little surprised by that,” Larson said afterward. “I thought I was going to maybe run a little too fast early. … (Briscoe) must have burned his stuff up.”

Tuesday’s two races were contested by six drivers: Larson, Bell, Briscoe, Denny Hamlin, Justin Allgaier and Burton.

Hamlin finished fourth in the first heat race after he spun from contact with the Turn 1 wall on Lap 23.

Allgaier finished fifth and Christopher Bell was last after Allgaier got loose and turned Bell on the backstretch on the second lap.

Bell led all 40 laps in the second heat race, beating Hamlin after he bounced off the outside wall and turned Bell coming to the checkered flag, wrecking them both.

“Just tried to make it interesting there for the fans,” Bell said after the win.

After finishing second, Hamlin received the Peacock Provisional from Steve Letartre, advancing him to Thursday night’s championship race with Larson and Bell.

Burton finished last, five laps down after an accident on Lap 6 where got loose, bounced off the outside wall and slid into the inside wall on the frontstretch.

“It was bound to happen to me eventually there,” Burton said on the driver radio channel after the incident.

Behind the Hamlin and Bell incident, Larson and Briscoe spun in the final turn while racing for third as Allgaier ran behind behind them and Burton was multiple laps down.

 

The NBC eSports Short Track iRacing Challenge continues at 7 p.m. ET Wednesday on NBCSN. Landon Cassill, Matt DiBenedetto, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Timmy Hill, Ryan Preece and Myatt Snider will race at a virtual Myrtle Beach Speedway.

NBC eSports Short Track iRacing Challenge continues at 7 pm ET on NBCSN

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After its debut Monday night, the iRacing component of Racing Week in America on NBCSN continues tonight at 7 p.m. ET.

The NBC eSports Short Track iRacing Challenge began on a virtual Rockingham Speedway, with William Byron sweeping the two heat races and Kyle Busch receiving the Peacock Provisional from Steve Letarte.

The next round of the challenge will be held on a virtual Lucas Oil Raceway, a 0.686-mile track located outside Indianapolis that hosted the Xfinity Series from 1982-2011 and the Truck Series from 1995-2011.

Wednesday night’s races will be at a virtual Myrtle Beach Speedway.

The winners of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday night’s races will advance to the championship round, Thursday night on a virtual Martinsville Speedway.

Here is the driver lineup for the remaining nights:

Tuesday at Lucas Oil Raceway: Justin Allgaier, Christopher Bell, Chase Briscoe, Harrison Burton, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson.

Wednesday at Myrtle Beach Speedway: Landon Cassill, Matt DiBenedetto, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Timmy Hill, Ryan Preece and Myatt Snider.

How NASCAR tracks are helping during COVID-19 pandemic

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With COVID-19 pandemic continuing to take a toll on the world, more NASCAR tracks are stepping up to help out local communities in their time of need.

They join Charlotte Motor Speedway, which became the first professional sports facility in the country to host a COVID-19 test site starting last month, while Eldora Speedway in Ohio donated almost 3,000 face masks to its surrounding commmunity.

Here’s a look at tracks that are helping out:

Atlanta Motor Speedway

The track in Hampton, Georgia, has announced an American Red Cross blood drive on May 4.

The drive will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. ET in Atlanta Motor Speedway’s Tara Ballroom, located within the AMS Condo Building at 1500 Tara Place.

To ensure all participants have the opportunity to donate upon arrival, donations for the blood drive will be done by appointment only.

Red Cross employees have implemented additional precautions to ensure blood drives and donation centers are safe for donors and staff and reduce potential exposure to COVID-19.

To make an appointment use the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Each donor will receive a discount coupon to the AMS Gift Shop and photos with the AMS pace car. To prepare to give blood, the Red Cross recommends donors eat iron-rich meals and drink plenty of water. A photo ID will also be needed upon arrival.

To donate please visit RedCrossBlood.org and enter sponsor code “atlantaspeedway” and choose the donation time that works best for you.

Martinsville Speedway

Starting Wednesday, Martinsville Speedway in Virginia will be a COVID-19 test site.

The site will be open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 12-4 p.m. ET.

Individuals to be tested must be a resident of Martinsville City, Henry County, or Patrick County.

They will not be admitted to the testing site unless it has received proper documentation from a physician.

Click here for more.

Talladega Superspeedway

The track in Alabama will host a by-appointment blood drive on Wednesday from noon to 6 p.m. ET.

It will take place at the the International Motorsports Hall of Fame’s Fox Sports 1 dome, which is outside the entrance of the track.

These are the precautions that are being taken according to the St. Clair News-Aegis:

  • All individuals will have their temperatures taken before entering the blood drive, including staff and volunteers
  • Additional spacing between beds and stations that go above social distancing guidelines
  • No more than 15 people will be allowed in the venue at a time (includes donors, staff & volunteers)
  • Reinforcing existing and introducing new safety protocols including wearing gloves, routinely wiping down donor-touched areas, using sterile collection sets for every donation, and preparing the arm for donation with an aseptic scrub
  • Having hand sanitizer available

To make an appointment to donate, download the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) sponsor code: TALLADEGA.

Texas Motor Speedway

The track in North Texas hosted a blood drive last week that collected 32 pints of blood from more than 30 donors, an amount that can help up to 96 patients.

Homestead-Miami Speedway

As a result of a $40,000 donation made because of its eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series race a few weeks ago, the track was able to distribute food and supplies to 1,000 families in its community through Farm Share.

Jeff Burton, Dale Jr., Carl Edwards on NASCAR Hall of Fame ballot for 2021

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NASCAR on NBC analysts Jeff Burton and Dale Earnhardt Jr. head a list of five newcomers nominated for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, which has revamped its balloting process for the 2021 class.

Carl Edwards, Jake Elder and Banjo Matthews also are first-time nominees for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, which is splitting its ballot into three categories this year: Modern, Pioneer and Landmark.

Burton and Earnhardt both had winning careers in NASCAR’s top series before entering the broadcast booth.

MORE: Dale Jr. Pondered Hall Nomination in January

Burton, who was nicknamed “The Mayor” by former teammate Clint Bowyer because of his ambassadorial and leadership skills, has 21 Cup victories, including the 1999 Southern 500 and two Coca-Cola 600s (1999, ’01). The South Boston, Virginia, native also has 27 Xfinity Series victories.

Earnhardt, who was voted NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver 15 times by fans, has 26 Cup victories (including the 2004 and ’14 Daytona 500s). He won consecutive Xfinity Series championships in 1998-99.

Edwards had 28 Cup victories and two runner-up points finishes in a full-time career from 2005-16. He also won the 2007 Xfinity Series championship before making the stunning decision to retire at 37 more than three years ago.

Among other notables: crew chief Kirk Shelmerdine returns after being left off the 2020 ballot, and Janet Guthrie is back on the Landmark ballot after a one-year absence.

Sam Ard, Ray Fox, John Holman, Marvin Panch, Jim Paschal and Red Vogt fell off the 2021 ballot after being nominated last year.

Under a new structure announced by NASCAR in February, there will be two entries chosen from 10 Modern candidates, one entry apiece from five candidates in the Pioneer and Landmark categories. Modern candidates are eligible to be on the ballot 10 times (which is retroactive to the start of the Hall of Fame vote in 2009).

There is no limit to the eligibility for the Pioneer and Landmark awards. Competitors are eligible for the Modern ballot if their careers started within the last 60 years; Pioneer if their careers began prior to 60 years ago.

Modern era driver and crew chief nominees must have competed in NASCAR for 10 years and have been retired for two. Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart were elected the past two years in their first year of eligibility. Earnhardt became eligible this year.

Next year, 2003 Cup champion Matt Kenseth will be eligible for the first time.

Last year, the NASCAR Hall of Fame inducted Stewart, Joe Gibbs, Bobby Labonte, Buddy Baker and Waddell Wilson.

Voting for the NASCAR Hall of Fame usually happens on the Wednesday before the Coca-Cola 600. A NASCAR spokesman told NBCSports.com that there was no update on when the 2021 Voting Day would be scheduled or whether it would be held virtually.

In the first 11 classes of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the top five vote-getters were inducted annually from a nominee list that initially was 25 and was shortened to 20 since the 2015 class.

Here is the ballot for the 2021 class:

Modern era (10): Neil Bonnett, Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Harry Gant, Harry Hyde, Larry Phillips, Ricky Rudd, Kirk Shelmerdine and Mike Stefanik.

Pioneer (5): Jake Elder, Red Farmer, Banjo Matthews, Hershel McGriff and Ralph Moody.

Landmark (5): Janet Guthrie, Alvin Hawkins, Mike Helton, Dr. Joseph Mattioli, Ralph Seagraves.

Here is the breakdown of how the ballot from 2021 differs from last year’s ballot and here is a Twitter thread that helps explain the changes to the NASCAR Hall of Fame voting process:

On the 2020 ballot, not on 2021: Sam Ard (once on ballot, 2020); Ray Fox (eight years on ballot, 2013-20); John Holman (two years on ballot, 20019-20); Marvin Panch (once on ballot, 2020); Jim Paschal (once on ballot, 2020); Red Vogt (once on ballot, 2020).

On the 2021 ballot, not on 2020: In the Modern category, Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards and Kirk Shelmerdine (returning after being on the 2019 ballot). In the Pioneer category, Jake Elder and Banjo Matthews.

Modern carryovers from the 2020 to the 2021 ballot (with remaining ballot eligibility): In the modern category, Neil Bonnett (eligible for nine more appearances after being on 2020 ballot); Harry Gant (eligible for eight more appearances after being on 2019-20 ballots); Harry Hyde (eligible for five more appearances after being on 2016-2020 ballots); Larry Phillips (eligible for two more appearances after being on 2013-2020 ballots); Ricky Rudd (eligible for six more appearances after being on 2017-2020 ballots); Mike Stefanik (eligible for four more appearances after being on 2015-2020 ballots)

–Pioneer carryovers (no limit on ballot eligibility): Red Farmer; Hershel McGriff; Ralph Moody.

–Landmark carryovers (no limit on ballot eligibility): Alvin Hawkins; Mike Helton; Doc Mattioli; Ralph Seagraves

–Landmark returnee: Janet Guthrie (absent from 2020 ballot)