Hendrick Motorsports looks to continue momentum in Daytona

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Slowly and surely Hendrick Motorsports is turning things around.

The evidence of that is not just in its two Cup wins this year with Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman, though those are significant.

In 2018, Hendrick won three times, all with Elliott. But the first victory – Elliott’s first Cup win – didn’t come until race No. 22 at Watkins Glen International Speedway.

But the improvements for Hendrick through 17 races this season are not just with the No. 9 and No. 88 teams.

All four of Hendrick’s cars have put together a better resume heading to Daytona than they did at this point last year.

Here are some numbers courtesy of Racing Insights.

 

Through 17 races, Elliott has six top fives, seven top 10s and two poles while leading 406 laps. Last year, Elliott had 11 top fives, 21 top 10s, one pole and led 325 laps all season.

William Byron has made significant improvement from his rookie year.

Byron has five top-10 finishes, 180 laps led and three poles this year. Byron’s entire rookie campaign saw four top 10s, 61 laps led and no poles. At Sonoma Raceway last month, Byron led every lap in the first stage to earn his first career stage win.

Byron heads to Daytona trying for some redemption. After he earned the pole for the Daytona 500, he crashed nine laps from the finish.

“The thing with Daytona though is you can’t really prepare for it; it’s about making sure you’re still there in the end,” Byron said in a media release. “The hope is to collect as many points as possible in the first two stages to help balance out what may happen in the end, but even then, it’s easy to lose a ton as well. Hopefully though we can get the result that I think our team deserves. I honestly feel like we should be contending for the win at the end.”

Jimmie Johnson, still mired in the longest winless streak of his career at 76 races, is marginally ahead of his 2018 pace.

The No. 48 team has a pole, two top fives and 78 laps led in 2019. Johnson had no poles, only two top fives and 40 laps led in all of 2018

Bowman’s four top fives in 2019, including his win, come after having he earned the first three top fives of his career last season.

Bowman’s top 10 total (six) is tied for his total at this point last year.

In the last eight races, Bowman has led the Cup Series in most points earned with 323. That’s 20 points more than Elliott in second. Byron has earned the eighth most points with 257.

From Racing Insights, here’s what’s contributed to Bowman’s large points gain, anchored by his streak of three consecutive runner-up finishes.

 

Can Bowman and the rest of Hendrick continue to build on their momentum this weekend in Daytona?

They have recent history on their side given Johnson’s win the Busch Clash in February and the team’s performance at Talladega in April. That’s where Elliott and Bowman finished 1-2 for Hendrick’s first win of the year and when Bowman began his surge. Meanwhile, Byron placed 21st as the last driver on the lead lap. Johnson finished 33rd after he hit the wall on Lap 25 upon cutting a tire.

“Going to Daytona this weekend, we have a little bit of a monkey off our back,” Bowman said in a media release. “I was one who definitely kept track of the point standings and now we can go out and focus on stage points and race wins. Being locked into the playoffs is an amazing feeling. Our goal is to get to Miami and be in the running for a championship.
“This team brought an amazing car to Talladega earlier this year and I know that these guys were back in the shop this weekend putting together a great car for this weekend. The superspeedway program at Hendrick Motorsports has always been good and the teams all work together pretty well on track. I think we have a shot at the win this weekend too, which is a great feeling.”

While Hendrick Motorsports had only one win in the last 10 Daytona points races with a restrictor plate (Dale Earnhardt Jr., July 2015), it has held the crown for more than two years when it came to pure qualifying speed.

In the first Daytona race with the tapered spacer packages, Hendrick will try to extend its record streak of five consecutive Daytona poles.

Former NASCAR Chairman Brian France defends leadership style in interview

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Former NASCAR Chairman Brian France defended his leadership style when running the stock-car series and said in an interview with Sports Business Journal that he was working on leaving the sport before he was ousted after his DWI arrest in August 2018.

The interview with Sports Business Journal marked France’s first public comments since his arrest.

France became NASCAR Chairman and Chief Executive Officer in September 2003, assuming the position from his father, Bill France Jr.

Brian France held that position until Aug. 6, 2018, when he took a leave of absence after his arrest for driving while intoxicated in Sag Harbor, New York. He was replaced by Jim France and did not return to NASCAR.

Brian France pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated in June 2019. As part of the agreement, he was required to complete 100 hours of community service and undergo alcohol counseling. If he completes those and does not run afoul of the law, his misdemeanor charge will be reduced to a non-criminal infraction in June 2020.

France told Sports Business Journal that he was actively talking to and identifying potential replacements before his arrest but did not go into detail.

France, who oversaw the TV deal with NBC and Fox that goes through 2024 and created the Chase/playoff format, defended his absence from the track during his reign. France did not attend every race and that became an issue in the garage, raising questions about how involved he was with the sport.

“I understand that kind of criticism, but there is no other sports league that gets any criticism like that,” France told Sports Business Journal of the time he spent at the track. “I’ve always found that a bit interesting that no one else asks another commissioner how many football games or practices he made.”

Jim France is at the track nearly every weekend. Brian France told Sports Business Journal that while his uncle attends more races to match his objective, “(it) didn’t match up with mine, so I had to take the criticism on my way to managing the commercial side.”

France, who endorsed Donald Trump for president at a Feb. 29, 2016 rally at Valdosta State University in Georgia, accompanied President Trump on Air Force One to Daytona International Speedway on Sunday, according to the pool media report.

Monday’s Daytona 500: Restart time, weather and more

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Let’s try this again.

After rain postponed Sunday’s race, Cup drivers will get back on track Monday at Daytona International Speedway to complete the Daytona 500. And the forecast looks very good for Monday’s race.

The race was halted after 20 of 180 laps with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. leading.

Here are today’s details:

(All times are Eastern)

RESTART: Command to fire engines at 4:02 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:12 p.m. 

DISTANCE: 180 of the scheduled 200 laps remain to be run on the 2.5-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 65. Stage 2 ends on Lap 130.

TV/RADIO: Fox’s broadcast begins at 4 p.m. Motor Racing Network’s broadcast begins at 4 p.m. and also can be heard on mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry MRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with a high of 73 degrees and a 3% chance of rain when the race resumes.

RUNNING ORDER:

  1. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  2. Joey Logano
  3. Aric Almirola
  4. Ryan Newman
  5. Kevin Harvick
  6. Brad Keselowski
  7. William Byron
  8. Jimmie Johnson
  9. Ty Dillon
  10. Timmy Hill
  11. David Ragan
  12. Chris Buescher
  13. Matt DiBenedetto
  14. Chase Elliott
  15. Ross Chastain
  16. Alex Bowman
  17. Kyle Larson
  18. Kurt Busch
  19. Austin Dillon
  20. Cole Custer
  21. Michael McDowell
  22. Tyler Reddick
  23. Ryan Blaney
  24. Bubba Wallace
  25. Reed Sorenson
  26. BJ McLeod
  27. Corey LaJoie
  28. Brendan Gaughan
  29. Ryan Preece
  30. Justin Haley
  31. Martin Truex Jr.
  32. Kyle Busch
  33. Erik Jones
  34. Christopher Bell
  35. Denny Hamlin
  36. Clint Bowyer
  37. John Hunter Nemechek
  38. Quin Houff
  39. Joey Gase
  40. Brennan Poole

Daytona 500 postponed to Monday

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The Daytona 500 has been postponed until Monday, NASCAR announced Sunday evening.

The race is scheduled to take the green flag at 4:05 p.m. ET Monday. The garage will open at 1:30 p.m. The race will air on Fox.

The wunderground.com forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with a high of 72 degrees and an 11% chance of rain when the race is scheduled to resume.

The race was scheduled to take the green flag Sunday at 3:18 p.m. ET but that was pushed back because of President Donald Trump’s participation in ceremonies before the race. He gave the command to start engines and his motorcade led the field on a pace lap. An extra pace lap was done to honor Jimmie Johnson, who is making his final Daytona 500 start.

As the field was set to take the green flag at 3:29 p.m. ET, rain in Turns 1 and 2 prevented the start. Rain fell throughout the track and led to a 51-minute delay.

When the race resumed, the field completed 20 laps before rain led to a caution at 4:36 p.m. ET. The field again was brought to pit road and the race was stopped. NASCAR told teams they could uncover cars on pit road at 6:18 p.m. ET but almost immediately there were reports of rain drops around the track. Drivers were called to their cars but never got in them. It began to pour around 6:44 p.m. ET. The race was called at 6:50 p.m. ET

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. led the opening 20 laps. He is followed by Joey Logano, Aric Almirola, Ryan Newman and Kevin Harvick.

Sixth through 10th is Brad Keselowski, William Byron, Jimmie Johnson, Ty Dillon and Timmy Hill.

This is the second time the Daytona 500 has been postponed by rain. It happened in 2012.

Daytona 500 once again under rain delay

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Rain has once again put a damper on the 62nd Daytona 500.

The race got through the first 20 laps of the scheduled 200-lap event before the yellow flag came out, sending cars back to the pits.

Pole Sitter Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and his Chevrolet has led all laps since the green flag fell. Fords make up the next five spots (Joey Logano, Aric Almirola, Ryan Newman, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski), while the highest Toyota’s driver — Martin Truex Jr. — is back in 31st place.

It was the second time rain has impacted the event. After seven pace laps, the start of the race was delayed for 51 minutes due to rain. Engines were re-fired at 4:14 p.m. ET

The race is airing on Fox.

We will keep you updated on the status of the race and when it resumes.