Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Long: How rules package, hard tire played key role in Denny Hamlin’s win

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FORT WORTH, Texas — Any other year, Denny Hamlin likely doesn’t win. But a new rules package, combined with key strategy calls and a tire that didn’t fall off much, allowed Hamlin to rally from two pit road penalties to win Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway.

No driver had come back from two pit road penalties in the same race to win since Brad Keselowski did it in October 2014 at Talladega. But that was restrictor-plate racing, and Keselowski’s penalties came during the same caution period a third of the way through that race.

Hamlin faced a much different situation at Texas.

The first half of Hamlin’s race was a mess. He missed pit road on Lap 63 and was speeding on pit road when he made it there on Lap 64.

“I was just beating my head against the steering wheel thinking, ‘Man, we’re going to finish bad with a really fast car,’“ Hamlin said.

An uncontrolled tire on Lap 173 of the 334-lap race sent Hamlin to the back.

“It was a very rough day,” crew chief Chris Gabehart said.

Just as Gabehart’s pit calls helped Hamlin win the Daytona 500, Gabehart again guided his driver to victory Sunday.

Gabehart could do so because of the rules and the tire.

The new rules package is intended to keep the field closer together. That creates more opportunities to pass. Previously, the fields at Texas Motor Speedway would spread out, making it harder to gain ground a few laps after a restart.

Denny Hamlin pits for fuel in the final laps at Texas Motor Speedway. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Gabehart said that this was not a track position race because how cars could move through the field. Just as important was that the tires did not have a significant drop off in time during the course of a run. Had these been tires that wore, Gabehart would not have been able to call for no-tire stops. He would have had to change four tires each stop and Hamlin would not have been able to leapfrog some cars through strategy.

A no-tire stop put Hamlin in the lead on Lap 156, and he won the second stage, which ended at Lap 170. Hamlin came down pit road during that caution for four tires. He was penalized for the uncontrolled tire during that stop, dropping him outside the top 15.

Gabehart called for a no-tire stop a second time during caution on Lap 256. Hamlin restarted sixth behind three cars that did not pit and two others that also did not take tires. 

“For our scenario each time, it just made the most sense,” Gabehart said of the no-tire calls.

Hamlin took the lead on Lap 303 from teammate Erik Jones when Jones pitted for two tires and fuel. Hamlin relinquished the lead on Lap 319 for enough fuel to make it to the end. When the field cycled through, Hamlin was back in front because of how little time he had spent on pit road.

“This is a complete different style of racing than what I used to do in the past,” Hamlin said. “I have to adapt. Seems like I’m adapting quickly.”

As is Gabehart.


Rarely do you hear NASCAR officials so candid and raw as Steve O’Donnell was Monday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

The topic was group qualifying and the issues that have pervaded the sport the past month.

Cars parked on pit road during qualifying at Texas. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Asked if he was angered by the controversy, O’Donnell said: “I think it’s ridiculous, candidly. I know the drivers did not like this qualifying before the season. Part of you says, ‘Are (they) doing this on purpose to get rid of it?’ “

O’Donnell’s comments were part of an offensive that series officials have gone on since Auto Club Speedway last month when all 12 cars failed to complete a lap before time expired in the final round.

Driver complaints about the qualifying have been constant since.

NASCAR President Steve Phelps appeared on “The Dale Jr. Download” (5:30 – 6:30 p.m. ET Tuesday on NBCSN) and was vocal about what has happened in qualifying.

“That was unacceptable if I was a race fan and unacceptable if I was at the race track,” Phelps said of this past weekend.

Scott Miller, senior vice president of competition, expressed his displeasure with what happened March 15 at Auto Club Speedway, saying the actions of drivers made “a mockery” of qualifying. Miller also said of the drivers not completing a lap in time: “It surprised me that they weren’t smart enough to go out.”

Last weekend at Texas, Jay Fabian, Cup series director, also raised questions about the drivers’ actions, saying: “Some of it is a little confusing because they say they don’t want to go out first … but (Daniel Suarez) went out by himself and transferred twice by himself. They say you got to follow somebody, but they chose to not follow him. I don’t understand why they didn’t.”

Since Auto Club Speedway, various NASCAR officials have used the term “mockery,” “ridiculous,” and “unacceptable” in discussing qualifying, and O’Donnell even said it makes one wonder if the drivers are doing this on purpose to get rid of the format.

Strong words but the time will come for action. The draft won’t be a factor in qualifying until Kansas next month (Talladega already has single-car qualifying) so NASCAR has some time to address the matter. The question is how strong will NASCAR’s response be?


The driver who might have had the most reason to be upset with NASCAR moving the championship race from Miami to ISM Raceway in 2020 would be Kyle Larson, but he wasn’t.

Miami is one of Larson’s best tracks and had he qualified for the championship race, he likely would have been the favorite regardless of who the other contenders were.

“Even though Homestead has been a track where I can lead a bunch of laps and also challenge for the win, I’ve always felt like it needs to go somewhere else,” Larson said. “I would like to see it go … to a different track every year.


Kyle Busch has one more race left this season in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series. Busch, who has won his first four starts this season, is limited to five races in that series because of his Cup experience.

Busch’s remaining race is next month’s event at Charlotte. It will mark the earliest his Truck season has ended. Part of the reason he races in the Truck series is to help improve his equipment at Kyle Busch Motorsports for his other drivers. With being done so early in the season, how will that impact the organization’s performance the rest of the year?

Kyle Busch has won all four Truck races he’s entered this season. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

“For us, we aren’t a Cup team and so we move a lot slower than the Cup teams do,” Busch said. “You all talked about how when everybody got done with the West Coast swing, the first time people would have updates to their cars would be Texas. I don’t think we would see an update to our stuff for two months. It just takes a bit longer to kind of get all that instilled into our stuff.

“If you look at me running the front side of the season and running as much as I do right now, we’ve been building some notes, and we’ve been building some things that we can work on and get better and do a little bit differently, so when we get to say July, August – that’s when you’ll start seeing some stuff coming out.

“That will be the brunt of the season, kind of closing in for the playoffs and then the playoff push. I’d like to run more or maybe I’d like to run a little bit later, but I just don’t know that the races fall, especially with me – like going to Iowa, I’ve never been to Iowa. Gateway, those places, I don’t need to go to those places, so it doesn’t make any sense for me to go to those places.”


Tyler Ankrum was excited after his sixth-place finish in Friday night’s Truck race. It was just the fourth career start in the series for the 18-year-old. That tied his career-high finish. He also placed sixth at ISM Raceway but Friday’s run was special because it was his first race on a 1.5-mile speedway.

“It’s kind of still surreal,” Ankrum said after the race. “I”m racing against (Matt) Crafton, Kyle Busch and (Johnny) Sauter. It’s crazy. I even passed Sauter on the outside! I don’t think you realize how important that is for me. I had a ton of fun and can’t wait to come back.”

He wasn’t the only driver who had a memorable weekend. Saturday’s Xfinity race saw Jeb Burton finish fifth in his first start of the season for JR Motorsports (Burton is back in the car next month in Charlotte).

As Burton talked about his finish to Performance Racing Network, he got emotional.

Other notable finishes from the weekend: William Byron‘s sixth-place finish matched his career-best result in Cup. Ryan Sieg won his first stage in the Xfinity Series on Saturday. Ronnie Bassett Jr. finished 15th in the Xfinity race, the second-career start for the 23-year-old.

2020 Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series schedules

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We’re less than a month away from the start of the 2020 NASCAR season.

While the Daytona 500 is scheduled for Feb. 16, the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series season begins in 25 days at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 14.

The schedules for all three national series have big changes in 2020.

Here are some of the changes, including:

  • Miami moves from the end of the season to March 22 for the Cup Series
  • The first Cup race under the lights at Martinsville Speedway (May 9)
  • The first weekend doubleheader for Cup, which occurs at Pocono (June 27-28)
  • The Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis will be held July 5. On July 4, the Xfinity Series race will be held on IMS’ road course.
  • Daytona International Speedway’s summer race shifts to August 29 and will be the final Cup race of the regular season.
  • The Xfinity Series returns to Martinsville Speedway for the first time since 2006 on Oct. 31.
  • The Truck Series returns to Richmond Raceway for the first time since 2005 on April 18.
  • Darlington Raceway hosts the opening race of the Cup playoffs on September 6.

And there’ll be a new site for the championship races for all three series — Phoenix Raceway from Nov. 6-8.

NBC will air Cup races at Indianapolis (July 5), Daytona (Aug. 29), Talladega (Oct. 4), Charlotte Roval (Oct. 11), Kansas (Oct. 18), Martinsville (Nov. 1) and Phoenix (Nov. 8).

Here’s how the schedules for all three series look for 2020:

2020 NASCAR Cup Series Schedule

Date Location Network Start Time Radio
Sun., Feb. 9 Daytona 500 Qualifying FOX 12:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Feb. 9 Busch Clash at Daytona FS1 3:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Thurs., Feb. 13 Gander RV Duel at Daytona FS1 7:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Feb. 16 Daytona 500 FOX 2:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Feb. 23 Las Vegas Motor Speedway FOX 3:30 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Mar. 1 Auto Club Speedway FOX 3:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Mar. 8 Phoenix Raceway FOX 3:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Mar. 15 Atlanta Motor Speedway FOX 2:00 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Mar. 22 Homestead-Miami Speedway FOX 2:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Mar. 29 Texas Motor Speedway FS1 2:00 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Apr. 5 Bristol Motor Speedway FS1 2:00 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Apr. 19 Richmond Raceway FOX 2:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Apr. 26 Talladega Superspeedway FOX 2:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., May 3 Dover International Speedway FS1 2:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., May 9 Martinsville Speedway FS1 8:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., May 16 All-Star Open FS1 7:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., May 16 All-Star Race FS1 9:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., May 24 Charlotte Motor Speedway FOX 6:00 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sun., May 31 Kansas Speedway FS1 2:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Jun. 7 Michigan International Speedway FS1 2:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Jun. 14 Sonoma Raceway FS1 3:00 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Jun. 21 Chicagoland Speedway NBCSN 2:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Jun. 27 Pocono Raceway NBCSN 3:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Jun. 28 Pocono Raceway NBCSN 3:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Jul. 5 Indianapolis Motor Speedway NBC 3:30 p.m. IMS/SiriusXM
Sat., Jul. 11 Kentucky Speedway NBCSN 7:30 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Jul. 19 New Hampshire Motor Speedway NBCSN 3:00 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Aug. 9 Michigan International Speedway NBCSN 3:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Aug. 16 Watkins Glen International NBCSN 3:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Aug. 23 Dover International Speedway NBCSN 3:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Aug. 29 Daytona International Speedway NBC 7:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Sept. 6 Darlington Raceway NBCSN 6:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Sept. 12 Richmond Raceway NBCSN 7:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Sept. 19 Bristol Motor Speedway NBCSN 7:30 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Sept. 27 Las Vegas Motor Speedway NBCSN 7:00 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Oct. 4 Talladega Superspeedway NBC 2:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Oct. 11 Charlotte Motor Speedway NBC 2:30 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Oct. 18 Kansas Speedway NBC 2:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Oct. 25 Texas Motor Speedway NBCSN 3:00 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Nov. 1 Martinsville Speedway NBC 2:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Nov. 8 Phoenix Raceway NBC 3:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM

 

2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series Schedule

Date Location Network Start Time Radio
Sat., Feb. 15 Daytona International Speedway FS1 2:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Feb. 22 Las Vegas Motor Speedway FS1 4:00 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Feb. 29 Auto Club Speedway FS1 4:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Mar. 7 Phoenix Raceway FS1 4:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Mar. 14 Atlanta Motor Speedway FS1 4:00 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Mar. 21 Homestead-Miami Speedway FS1 3:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Mar. 28 Texas Motor Speedway FS1 1:00 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Apr. 4 Bristol Motor Speedway FS1 1:00 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Apr. 25 Talladega Superspeedway FS1 1:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., May 2 Dover International Speedway FS1 1:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., May 23 Charlotte Motor Speedway FS1 1:00 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sat., May 30 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course FS1 1:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Jun. 6 Michigan International Speedway FS1 1:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Jun. 13 Iowa Speedway FS1 8:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Jun. 20 Chicagoland Speedway NBCSN 4:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Jun. 28 Pocono Raceway NBCSN 12:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Jul. 4 Indianapolis Motor Speedway NBC 1:30 p.m. IMS/SiriusXM
Fri., Jul. 10 Kentucky Speedway NBCSN 7:30 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Jul. 18 New Hampshire Motor Speedway NBCSN 3:00 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Aug. 1 Iowa Speedway CNBC 2:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Aug. 8 Road America CNBC 3:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Aug. 15 Watkins Glen International NBCSN 3:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Aug. 22 Dover International Speedway NBCSN 4:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Fri., Aug. 28 Daytona International Speedway NBCSN 7:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Sept. 5 Darlington Raceway NBC 4:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Fri., Sept. 11 Richmond Raceway NBCSN 8:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Fri., Sept. 18 Bristol Motor Speedway NBCSN 7:30 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Sept. 26 Las Vegas Motor Speedway NBCSN 7:30 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Oct. 10 Charlotte Motor Speedway NBC 3:30 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Oct. 17 Kansas Speedway NBC 3:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Oct. 24 Texas Motor Speedway NBC 3:30 p.m. PRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Oct. 31 Martinsville Speedway NBCSN 8:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Nov. 7 Phoenix Raceway NBCSN 4:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM

2020 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Schedule

Date Location Network Start Tim Radio
Fri., Feb. 14 Daytona International Speedway FS1 7:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Fri., Feb. 21 Las Vegas Motor Speedway FS1 9:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Mar. 14 Atlanta Motor Speedway FS1 1:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Fri., Mar. 20 Homestead-Miami Speedway FS1 8:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Fri., Mar. 27 Texas Motor Speedway FS1 9:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Apr. 18 Richmond Raceway FS1 7:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Fri., May 1 Dover International Speedway FS1 5:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Fri., May 15 Charlotte Motor Speedway FS1 8:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., May 30 Kansas Speedway FS1 8:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Fri., Jun. 5 Texas Motor Speedway FS1 9:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Fri., Jun. 12 Iowa Speedway FS1 8:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Fri., Jun. 19 Chicagoland Speedway FS1 8:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Jun. 27 Pocono Raceway FS1 12:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Thurs., Jul. 9 Kentucky Speedway FS1 7:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Thurs., Jul. 30 Eldora Speedway FS1 9:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Aug. 8 Michigan International Speedway FS1 1:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Fri., Aug. 21 World Wide Technology Raceway

at Gateway

FS1 9:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sun., Sept. 6 Canadian Tire Motorsport Park FS1 2:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Thurs., Sept. 17 Bristol Motor Speedway FS1 7:30 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Fri., Sept. 25 Las Vegas Motor Speedway FS1 9:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Sat., Oct. 3 Talladega Superspeedway FS1 1:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Fri., Oct. 30 Martinsville Speedway FS1 8:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM
Fri., Nov. 6 Phoenix Raceway FS1 8:00 p.m. MRN/SiriusXM

 

Kyle Larson scores first Chili Bowl Nationals victory

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Kyle Larson passed Christopher Bell with 17 laps left and went on to win his first Chili Bowl Nationals crown Saturday night.

Bell, vying for a record-tying fourth consecutive win in the country’s premier midget race, finished second in the 24-car field at the River Spirit Expo Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Cannon McIntosh, 17 years old, finished third. NASCAR Xfinity driver Justin Allgaier placed 21st. 

A year ago, Larson lost this race on the last lap to Bell. Larson had a large enough lead late in Saturday night’s race that Bell wasn’t close enough to make a move.

“Its a pretty different range of emotions 365 days later,” Larson said on the MavTV broadcast. “I feel like I’m going to pass out.

“I’m sorry NASCAR, I’m sorry Daytona, but this is the biggest (expletive) race I’ve ever won. I hope to win Daytona in a few weeks but this is bad ass.”

Here’s how other NASCAR competitors did in the various races Saturday that led to the A main that Larson won:

Dillon Welch, Alex Bowman and J.J. Yeley each failed to advance from the B2 Main.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. failed to advance from the C1 Main.

Ryan Newman failed to advance from the D1 Main.

Chase Briscoe failed to advance from the B1 Main

 

Parker Kligerman will not return to No. 96 Cup car

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Parker Kligerman said Friday that he will not drive the No. 96 Cup car for Gaunt Brothers Racing this season.

Kligerman ran 14 races for the team last year, finishing a season-high 15th in the Daytona 500 and also in the fall Talladega playoff race. Kligerman ran four races with the team in 2018, placing a season-best 23rd at Sonoma.

“It was a super cool opportunity,” Kligerman told NBC Sports of driving for Gaunt Brothers Racing. “I didn’t think I was going to get a second shot at Cup. Then I had that opportunity at the Coke 600 (in 2018 with the team) and last year we did way more races than I ever thought we would do and got to be a part of the Toyota family.

“I felt like we really, as race team, improved and improved and improved and got to where our last race at Texas was one of our best races of the year. We were just solid, speed-wise and execution and all that stuff. It was cool to see that and be a part of that. That’s why I did that. I felt like we were building something.

“(Owner Marty Gaunt) has been great to me, super open to the process in the offseason. In my position, being a driver that doesn’t have any personal funding, you always know, especially being a part-time driver, you’re on borrowed time. I’m very happy for them. I wish them all the best.”

Kligerman said he does not have any rides for 2020 in any of NASCAR national series. Kligerman is a NASCAR on NBC broadcaster and co-host of the show “Proving Grounds” on NBCSN.

The team has not announced its plans for the 2020 season. Daniel Suarez, linked to the team, has not announced his plans for this year after losing his ride at Stewart-Haas Racing after last season.   

Gaunt Brothers Racing debuted in 2017, running one race with D.J. Kennington. The team ran 22 races the following year between Kligerman, Kennington, Jeffrey Earnhardt and Jesse Little. The team ran 15 races last year with Drew Herring running once along with Kligerman’s 14 starts.

Kaulig Racing announces crew chiefs for full-time Xfinity teams

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Kaulig Racing announced Friday the crew chief lineup for its two full-time Xfinity Series teams this year.

Bruce Schlicker, a former race engineer for Stewart-Haas Racing, will lead Ross Chastain and the No. 10 team.

Alex Yontz returns as crew chief on Justin Haley‘s No. 11 Chevrolet. Yontz led Haley’s team in 14 races last year following the death of Nick Harrison in July.

More: Kaulig Racing to attempt to make Daytona 500 with Justin Haley

Schlicker was a race engineer at Richard Childress Racing from 2012-2016 before joining Stewart-Haas Racing.

“I’m excited for the opportunity at Kaulig Racing,” Schlicker said in a press release. “It’s a great team with great resources and even better drivers. We’ve got some great support from Nutrien Ag Solutions, who will be on the No. 10 car for the majority of the races in 2020. I’m looking forward to running a full season in the Xfinity Series with Ross Chastain, winning races and chasing after the championship.”

Yontz served as a crew chief for Kaulig Racing in 24 races in 2019, also working with Austin Dillon, Elliott Sadler, A.J. Allmendinger and Chastain in addition to Haley. He was on the pit box when Chastain earned Kaulig Racing’s first NASCAR victory in the July race at Daytona.

“I’m excited to be back with Justin Haley this season full time,” Yontz said in the press release. “We have a few races under our belts together from the end of last season, and we built a really good relationship. I’m looking forward to winning races with him in 2020.”