Why Denny Hamlin let Jimmie Johnson back on the lead lap

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Jimmie Johnson has been on a crusade to earn respect that he believes has eroded among his peers during a two-year winless skid.

Sunday at Kansas Speedway, the seven-time Cup champion was shown a major amount of deference by race winner Denny Hamlin, who slowed to allow the No. 48 Chevrolet to get back on the lead lap less than a mile before the end of Stage 2.

A sign of respect? Yes.

But maybe not quite the type being sought by the Hendrick Motorsports star, who recently spoke of once being “feared” on the track.

That wasn’t the case with Hamlin, Johnson said.

“Honestly, if he thought I was a threat, he wouldn’t have done it,” Johnson said with a laugh about Hamlin’s move. “So there is respect there. And I do feel there is respect off the track, but out there on the track, there is just another level of respect you have to earn through racing hard. And I guess because I didn’t seem like a threat, he let that slide.

“I’ll take it! I’m very appreciative. I don’t want to have it come across the wrong way, but if we’d been leading all day long, I don’t think he would have cut us that break.”

Johnson still made the most of it over the final half of the race. Restarting in 20th, he drove into the top five over the next 100 laps (capitalizing on a two-tire stop with 20 laps remaining.

He faded to a 10th-place finish over the last three restarts – but it still was a major improvement after running outside the top 15 for most of the first two stages.

“We just finally got the car tightened up,” Johnson said. “We were so loose, I just couldn’t run the amount of throttle needed.

“Once we got the car closer, I drove up to (the top five) and passed a ton of cars. That was cool. On the end with two tires, a lot of guys were on four, so that hurt us a little bit. We didn’t need those last few cautions. I think we were sitting in a great spot, and then the cautions started, and that caught us off.”

Still, the big break came from Hamlin. Though Johnson would have gotten back on the lead lap via the free pass, staying on the lead lap allowed him to avoid starting behind lapped cars on the ensuing restart.

“I’m just very thankful that he was so considerate,” Johnson said. “I’m not sure where that came from, but I’m very, very appreciative of it. He harassed me in a tweet a while back and mentioned something along the lines of the utmost respect, so there is a lot of respect there. I appreciate that.”

It was during the July 13 race at Kentucky Speedway when Hamlin complained about being held up by Johnson on track.

But as he has mentioned often this season (and often since his spin of Chase Elliott racing for the lead at Martinsville Speedway might have cost him a chance for the championship), the Joe Gibbs Racing driver has been rather chivalrous at times with his No. 11 Toyota.

“Just trying to be a nice guy,” Hamlin said of declining to keep Johnson a lap down. “Never can have too many friends out there, especially this point of the season.  You go a lap down, it changes your race.  Obviously he was up there racing in the top five there towards the end.

“Just putting another coin in the deposit box.”

Today’s Las Vegas Cup race: Start time, lineup and more

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One down and only 35 to go.

With the Daytona 500 now in the record books, the NASCAR Cup Series moves on to its second race of the season – and the start of the three-race western swing.

Can Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin make it back-to-back wins to start the 2020 season?

How about defending Cup Series champ Kyle Busch, looking for his second career Cup win in his hometown? What about older brother Kurt Busch, still searching for his first career hometown Cup triumph?

Here is all the info for today’s race:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The 1980 U.S. Men’s Olympic “Miracle” hockey team will give the command to start engines at 3:37 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:46 p.m.

PRERACE: Garage opens at 11:30 a.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 1:30 p.m. Driver introductions are at 3 p.m. The invocation will be given by Motor Racing Outreach chaplain Billy Mauldin at 3:30 p.m. The National Anthem will be performed by Carnell Johnson at 3:31 p.m., followed by a flyover by four F-16 “Vipers” from the 57th Wing Adversary Tactics Group from Nellis Air Force Base at 3:32 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 267 laps (400.5 miles) around the 1.5-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 80. Stage 2 ends on Lap 160.

TV/RADIO: Fox will broadcast the race with coverage beginning at 3:30 p.m. Performance Racing Network’s broadcast begins at 2:30 p.m. and can also be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry PRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: The Wunderground.com forecast calls for sunny skies with a high of 68 degrees and a 0% chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Joey Logano won this race last year, followed by teammate Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch. Martin Truex Jr. won last September’s playoff race, followed by Kevin Harvick and Keselowski.

TO THE REAR: Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Christopher Bell will start from the rear after L1 level infractions in qualifying inspection. Garrett Smithley will also start from the rear due to three inspections failures.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the starting lineup.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Rain postpones Las Vegas Xfinity race to 7:30 p.m. ET Sunday

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Rain has forced the conclusion of today’s Xfinity Series race in Las Vegas to be postponed until Sunday after the Cup Series race at approximately 7:30 p.m. ET. The race will resume on FS2.

The race had been red flagged since late Saturday afternoon, with the race paused on Lap 51 of 200, only six laps after Chase Briscoe won Stage 1.

The top 10 is currently scored as:

  1. Joe Graf Jr. (stayed out of pits)
  2. Chase Briscoe
  3. Austin Cindric
  4. Ross Chastain
  5. Brandon Jones
  6. Justin Allgaier
  7. Michael Annett
  8. Justin Haley
  9. Harrison Burton
  10. Brett Moffitt

Kevin Harvick, Gander RV CEO put up $100K bounty to beat Kyle Busch in trucks

Kyle Busch
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Kevin Harvick and Gander RV & Outdoors CEO Marcus Lemonis issued a bounty poster in tweet form Saturday.

WANTED: A full-time Cup Series driver to beat Kyle Busch in any of his remaining four Truck Series starts this year (without wrecking him).

REWARD: $50,000 each from Harvick and Lemonis.

The bounty comes the night after Busch won his seventh consecutive Truck Series race, which includes all five starts he made in 2019.

Saturday’s race was his first of five in the trucks this season. He’ll be back in the series March 14 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, March 20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, March 27 at Texas Motor Speedway and May 30 at Kansas Speedway.

Busch won at Atlanta and Texas last year.

Busch himself didn’t seem too impressed with the bounty when told about it in the media center.

So what is in it for Busch?

If no full-time Cup driver is able to beat Busch in those four races, the bounty will be given to the Bundle of Joy Fund, the organization founded by Kyle and Samantha Busch that helps couples who require fertility treatments to conceive.

Lemonis wasn’t done there. Later Saturday night, he put another proposition out into the Twitterverse. If Fox Sports moved any of the races to prime time, he’d increase the purse among the top-five finishers to $250,000.

Needless to say, the original bounty got the attention of a few drivers, including Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Denny Hamlin.

Disclaimer on the following tweet by Hamlin: As noted above, none of Busch’s remaining four truck races are at Richmond Raceway. But…..Richmond is the site of the first Triple Truck Challenge race on April 18.

Richmond’s track president, Dennis Bickmeier chimed in with his thoughts.

Las Vegas Xfinity race under red flag for rain on Lap 51

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Today’s Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is under its second rain delay and its first since the start of race.

The race was paused by a red flag on Lap 51, shortly after the end of Stage 1.

The race is official after the end of Stage 2 on Lap 90.

Joe Graf Jr is listed as the leader after he stayed out during pit stops.

The top five is completed by Stage 1 winner Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Ross Chastain and Brandon Jones.

The green flag for the race was originally scheduled for 4:16 p.m. ET. The finally waved at 5:48 p.m. ET.

The rain forced the cancellation of qualifying for Cup and Xfinity. The field was set by last year’s owner’s points.

If the race resumes tonight, coverage will be on FS2.

Check back for more.