Daniel Suarez ‘lucky’ to escape Clint Bowyer spin, Matt DiBenedetto near-win

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BRISTOL, Tenn. — Daniel Suarez admits he got “lucky” twice Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.

He was more enthusiastic about the first instance of luck, which struck on Lap 243.

That’s when his teammate and fellow winless driver, Clint Bowyer, accidentally cut down on the No. 27 of Quin Houff entering Turn 1, which sent Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford sliding toward the exit of Turn 2.

“It’s short track racing,” Bowyer said. “You’re making split decisions. I was trying to pass those two cars and get more stage points for us. I clipped him. It was nothing he did. I was just trying to shoot the gap. I had a run on those guys and was trying to do all I could.”

Bowyer’s car began backing up toward the outside wall, while Suarez’s No. 41 Ford was fast approaching the same area.

The two cars came so close to hitting, Suarez’s spotter mistakenly thought they had.

“I’m probably a little lucky and a little good,” Suarez said after his eighth-place finish. “It worked out pretty good. It was tight, it was pretty, pretty tight.”

Avoiding his teammate allowed him to benefit from pit strategy.

With the caution coming so close to the end of Stage 2, most of the leaders visited the pits. But Suarez stayed out and managed to finish second, earning nine stage points.

Those points, along with his eighth-place finish put him 16th in points with two races left in the regular season. He has a two-point advantage over Bowyer, who failed to earn any stage points Saturday night.

“I feel like that was probably the biggest thing of the day,” Suarez said of the move to stay out at the end of the stage. “I feel like that was an amazing call from my crew chief Billy Scott.”

Suarez was less enthusiastic about where else he was lucky. Denny Hamlin passed Matt DiBenedetto with 12 laps to go and raced to his fourth win of the year. That deprived DiBenedetto of his first win of the year and means there’s still seven spots left in the 16-driver playoff field.

“I feel like he deserved the win, but you never know how things are going to work out,” Suarez said of DiBenedetto. “I feel like I have to do my race and let everything else play out by itself. I can control that. I would tell you that in a way I’m kind of lucky that he didn’t win. But I wish he was winning the race because he’s an amazing driver, he deserves a ride.”

Bowyer, who survived his spin and fought back to finish seventh, was very mellow after his first top-10 finish in five races.

“All in all it was a good weekend for us. Kind of a rebound weekend, what we needed,” Bowyer said. “We did all we could do. I was hoping to be a top-five car and when you’re a top-five car here you’ve got a chance to win. But we were just a beat off of that all night.”

Bowyer said on a short track like Bristol “you’re not worried about” points.

“You’re worried about keeping up with the race track, keeping up with your adjustments, traffic and stuff like that,” Bowyer said. “You don’t have time to screw with that.”

But with two races left in the regular season, Bowyer and his Stewart-Haas Racing team have even less time to screw around before the playoffs begin.

“Gotta do what we gotta do,” Bowyer said. “Let’s go race, you know what I mean? Just got to perform the way we can perform and do our thing.”

When it came to a playoff spot being saved by DiBenedetto not winning, Bowyer said “I hate it for that guy. He’s racing for a job and everything else.”

NASCAR mourns Kobe Bryant

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Joining their brethren in other sports, the NASCAR world took to social media upon learning the tragic news of the death of Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant, killed Sunday morning in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

Bryant had met a number of NASCAR drivers in his career, including Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano. They were among a number of NASCAR notables who took to social media to mourn Bryant:


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Chad Knaus and wife expecting second child

Photo courtesy Brooke Knaus official Instagram account
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Seven-time NASCAR Cup champion crew chief Chad Knaus and wife Brooke are expecting their second child.

Brooke made the announcement Saturday on her Instagram account.

The couple, already parents to one-year-old son Kip, will soon be adding a daughter to their growing family.

Brooke Knaus’s Instagram post said the baby is due in July.

Kip figured prominently in the baby revelation, coming at the end of mom and dad’s ski run while vacationing in Telluride, Colorado:


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Kyle Larson flips, misses finals of Australia’s biggest sprint car race

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Kyle Larson’s hope of following up last week’s Chili Bowl win with a triumph in Australia’s prestigious Grand Annual Sprint Car Classic fell far short Sunday.

Larson’s bid to race his way into the 24-car finals of the three-day race at Premier Speedway in Warrnambool, Australia, ended when he flipped (uninjured) on the opening lap of a last-chance qualifying heat race earlier in the evening.

Instead of being one of the featured drivers in the Classic’s 40-lap finale – the largest and most popular sprint car race of the year in the land down under – Larson was left to watch the event from the pits and cheer on Dyson Motorsport teammate and fellow American Carson Macedo.

Even that didn’t go very well, as Macedo flipped his own sprint car on the first lap of the Classic, resulting in a last-place finish. The highest finishing American was Cory Eliason, who ended up fourth.

Meanwhile, it was an all-Australian podium, with James McFadden winning the Classic for the second time in his career, followed by James Veal and Kerry Madsen.

In eight days, Larson went from capturing what he called the biggest win ever of his racing career on all levels – the Chili Bowl in his 13th try last Saturday in Tulsa, Oklahoma – to nothing but bad luck and utter frustration throughout his Australian journey.

Larson’s first race on Wednesday in the King’s Challenge at Borderline Speedway was rained out.

Then, in the first night of the Classic on Friday, Larson wrecked heavily in his first heat race, including flipping (he was uninjured). After his team repaired his car, Larson went back on the track, only to suffer a blown engine that knocked him out of contention to race in that evening’s feature event.

After not being on the schedule to race in Night 2 of the Classic on Saturday, Larson had one last chance to make Sunday’s featured championship event.

A total of 80 drivers battled it out in the B, C and D Mains for the eight remaining spots in the A Main, but Larson would end up not being one of those — as can be seen in the second line of the following tweet by his team:

Larson now returns to the United States to prepare for the Daytona 500 on February 16.

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Kyle Busch feeling like ‘the new guy’ during his Rolex 24 debut at Daytona


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Kyle Busch was looking forward to his first stint at 6 p.m. Saturday in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

The two-time Cup champion was less enthused about his second turn behind the wheel in the IMSA season opener. Busch will climb back into the No. 14 Lexus RCF GT3 at 2 a.m. Sunday, just past the midpoint of the endurance race classic at Daytona International Speedway.

“That’s going to suck, yeah,” Busch deadpanned. “That’s exactly when I told them I did not want to run, and I got it.  Thank you very much.

“(I’m) the new guy.  I pulled the short straw.”

Click here to read more about how Busch felt about his AIM Vasser Sullivan car.