William Byron gives Martin Truex Jr. a Jeff Gordon-like flashback

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Martin Truex Jr. looked in his rearview mirror in the closing laps of Sunday’s Cup playoff race at Martinsville Speedway and for a brief moment, felt like he saw a ghost.

As in the racing ghost of NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon.

William Byron was doing his best imitation of Gordon — a nine-time Martinsville winner — behind the wheel of the legendary No. 24 Chevrolet while also trying to steal the win away from Truex.

“My original thought was did they put Jeff Gordon back in that car because he was so good here,” Truex said. “So I was like, damn, Jeff is giving (Byron) tips or something. Jeff was amazing here. So to see the 24 running that good was pretty cool, first off, and (Byron) did an amazing job.

“(Byron is) really good on restarts and I felt like every time — even midway through the race when he got to second — there was a lot of times we were in tons of traffic and I kept looking back there and he was just hanging around. So he did a really good job of hanging around all day long.”

Byron was seeking his first career Cup victory — ironically at the same site of Gordon’s 93rd and last career Cup win (Nov. 1, 2015).

“I knew he was hungry,” Truex said of Byron. “I knew he’s never won before, so I knew he was probably willing to do just about anything to get a win, and I just tried my best to try to get a little bit of a gap because I honestly didn’t want him anywhere near me with two or three laps to go. That’s all I was trying to do was just keep a little distance there, and luckily we were able to do that.”

Had the race gone maybe a few more laps, Byron – who was the runner-up by .373 of a second – potentially could have wound up in victory lane rather than Truex.

As it played out, the second-year Hendrick Motorsports driver tied his best Cup career showing, matching his Daytona finish in July. It was also his fifth top-five finish of the season.

(Truex) was super strong,” Byron told NBCSN when asked if he had anything left for Truex. “Our car bounced a little bit on the short run, which was tough to kind of get around, but overall it was a really good day. This isn’t a place that I’ve loved coming to, and it just clicked this weekend, the things we did with the car going into qualifying and then obviously our race.

So, I’m super excited, but second is not super fun either. We’ll try to get one spot better next time.”

Byron was eliminated from the playoffs last week at Kansas. Still, he leaves Martinsville 10th in the season standings with three races remaining.

In the eight races since Byron suffered back-to-back 21st-place finishes in the summer race at Bristol and the following week at Darlington, Byron has amassed three top-five finishes (second at Martinsville, fourth at Indianapolis and fifth at Kansas), as well as two other top-10 showings (sixth on the Charlotte Roval and seventh at Las Vegas).

Going back to the closing laps, Byron was asked if he would have pushed Truex out of the way if he would have been able to get to him.

I wouldn’t race him dirty, but I’m really hungry for my first win, so whatever it takes,” Byron told NBCSN. “But, he ran such a good race, I think he would have been able to drag the brake and do all he could to keep me behind him anyway. So, it was close.”

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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.