Michael McDowell reflects on David vs. Goliath effort at Daytona

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In many ways, Sunday’s final lap of the Daytona 500 was a classic David vs. Goliath situation for Michael McDowell.

There was McDowell as David, in the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford Mustang, doing battle with the Goliath likes of eventual winner Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and Kyle Busch.

Although Logano complained post-race that McDowell should have pushed him on the final lap, as they both drive Fords, McDowell chose to push Busch’s Toyota instead, hoping for an even higher finish than the fifth-place showing he scored.

McDowell was on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s On Track with Danielle Trotta and Brendan Gaughan Tuesday afternoon and talked about his finish, what he might have done different, and Logano’s post-race seething.

MORE: Bump & Run: Should Michael McDowell have pushed fellow Ford at end of Daytona 500?

McDowell made it very clear that he was going for the win, and whether or not that may have hurt Logano’s feelings, he was more concerned about seeking the best finish in his Cup career – and potentially his first win.

“You know you’re not going to have 100 opportunities to be in the top three or four of the Daytona 500 and have a shot at winning the race,” McDowell said. “I was just laying everything on the line.”

While he admitted he “wasn’t able to keep the momentum going and pull it off” on the final lap, McDowell said he was caught up in the moment and was battling perhaps as hard as he ever has in a race.

“You’re fighting as hard as you can just to stay wedged up in that top five, and knowing you have some really fast cars around you, you go on both offense and defense,” McDowell said. “We didn’t quite have the outright speed we needed to be a line leader, so to speak, so you’re guarding the front and back and trying to keep yourself wedged up in there and not spit out.

“Coming to the white flag, I was on the outside kind of by myself a little bit, and I knew eventually they were going to fan out. I was able to get some big momentum on the back straightaway. You watch the replay 100 times and say, ‘Man, I wish I would have done this, this or this.’ But in the moment, you make your decision and stick with it. It’s great to get out of there with a top five.”

When asked about the criticism from Logano about not pushing a fellow Ford driver, McDowell broke things down into two parts: the race, and the post-race.

“It’s the last lap of the Daytona 500, I don’t care who’s in front of me,” he said. “I would love to tell you I was that smart and strategic and I was thinking about all the drivers and manufacturers and who to go with and who not to go with, but I’m not, I’m fighting my tail off just to stay wedged up in there. That’s the reality of what happened on the racetrack.

“The off-track part is where my comments came from and why I was upset. Joey was livid that I didn’t go with him. He was talking he was driving a Ford, brand loyalty, pointing to the blue oval and I get it. If I could have, I would have loved to do it.

“It all sounds good in a fairy-tale world, but in reality, I made the decision I made and it was the last lap of the Daytona 500. It is what it is. I wasn’t crying when Clint Bowyer put me three-wide on the back straightaway. I’m a Ford, I’m leading the pack, stay with me. That’s not racing. So I take it with a grain of salt, emotions are high and everybody’s wanting to win and we were all going for it. I’m sure Joey would have loved for me to push him, but it just didn’t work out.”

It was McDowell’s second-best career finish at Daytona. His best effort there was a fourth-place finish in the July 2017 Coke Zero 400. In 16 career starts at the 2.5-mile superspeedway, McDowell has two top-fives and four top 10s (all in his last six starts there).

“Somebody told me I had 6 or 7 top 10s at Daytona and I said, ‘No way, you’re out of your mind,’” McDowell said. “But over the years, it’s just worked out well for me there. I love plate racing and superspeedway racing and I’ve grown to enjoy it.”

McDowell’s Daytona performance boosts his confidence. He believes his first in Cup could pbe coming.

“That’s what’s cool about our sport, you’re only one race away,” he said. “You’re one race away from being in the playoffs, you’re only one race away from winning the 500, and you’re only one race away from locking down another great sponsor and making your program better. Every race counts, every opportunity counts. It’s just a matter of making the most of it.”

“There’s opportunity in the first five to 10 races (with the new rules package intended to tighten the field) that if you get a late-race green-white-checker restart, you weasel your way into the top five, you can put yourself into a spot like we were in at Daytona. I don’t think that was possible last year. The speed differential between the haves and have-nots was so big that you weren’t going to sneak a win.

“I really do believe that there’ll be surprise winners this year and some crazy, exciting finishes. I do look forward to it.”

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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)

Twists and Turns Tuesday takes center stage on NBCSN

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The 2018 debut of the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval was among the most anticipated races in years and delivered in ways few could have imagined.

Relive all the excitement and energy again as NBCSN airs that race at 8 p.m. ET today as part of Twists and Turns Tuesday during Racing Week in America.

Ryan Blaney‘s victory in the inaugural Cup race at the Roval was just a small part of a dramatic last lap that saw Jimmie Johnson make contact with Martin Truex Jr. on the final corner while racing for the lead and Kyle Larson‘s remarkable wall-banging last lap to advance to the second round of the playoffs.

That’s just a part of Twists and Turns Tuesday.

From city streets to massive dirt jumps, NBCSN will showcase the best twists and turns that motorsports have to offer starting at 1 p.m. ET. Twists and Turns Tuesday includes a return to IndyCar Victory Lane for NBC Sports’ own James Hinchcliffe at iconic Long Beach; and the closest finish in Supercross history from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Here is today’s schedule:

COVERAGE TIME (ET) NETWORK
IMSA – Long Beach 2019 1 p.m. NBCSN
INDYCAR – Long Beach 2017 3 p.m. NBCSN
NBC eSports Short Track iRacing Challenge – Lucas Oil Raceway 7 p.m. NBCSN
NASCAR – Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL 2018 8 p.m. NBCSN
NASCAR – Watkins Glen 2017 10 p.m. NBCSN
Supercross – Arlington 2019 12 a.m. NBCSN
Monster Jam World Finals 2019 2 a.m. NBCSN