Mysterious adjustment ruins Joey Logano’s shot at defending title

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AVONDALE, Ariz. – Ending an “ugly” playoff run in which his team battled through numerous problems, Joey Logano finally ran into a mysterious malady he couldn’t overcome Sunday at ISM Raceway.

After winning the second stage and putting himself in a strong position to advance to the championship round and defend his 2018 title, Logano faded to a ninth-place finish and was eliminated from the playoffs (finishing seven points behind runner-up Kyle Busch for the final transfer slot).

Logano led 93 of the first 176 laps – sometimes by several seconds – until it inexplicably all fell apart. After Chase Elliott crashed on Lap 166, Logano pitted for four tires and restarted in first on Lap 174. He knew something was wrong almost immediately.

“I couldn’t pass the lapped cars out there because I was one,” he said.

Denny Hamlin took the lead four laps later from Logano, who dropped like a rock over the course of the longest green-flag run in the race. At a 1-mile track where laps take a little less than 30 seconds, Logano fell to 11th and a lap down to Hamlin 60 laps later.

What happened?

“I have no idea,” Logano said. “It went from a really good car to a car that couldn’t stay on the lead lap with changing tires and a half-pound of air. A lot of things don’t line up there. That doesn’t make any sense.”

Crew chief Todd Gordon told NBCSports.com that he merely removed a half-pound of air pressure from the right rear of the No. 22 Ford.

“I really struggle to say that a half-pound of air pressure that we changed in one tire makes that much of a difference,” he said.

A bad set of tires?

“I hesitate to speculate,” Gordon said. “There was nothing in the tires coming off the car pressure-wise or wear-wise or anything visual that stood out. I won’t rule anything out, but I won’t point my finger at anything, either, because I would say us as a program, I would really hesitate to say that anytime I’ve felt like I had a bad set of tires.

“Maybe this was, but I don’t know how you do that. It didn’t vibrate. It didn’t wear funny. Something happened, we got tight. I took air out of the right rear. That should make you a little tighter, but I wouldn’t have thought to the extent that we got.”

Gordon reversed the changes during a pit stop under green on Lap 246, and Logano immediately began running laps again on pace with Hamlin, who won to advance to the title round.

“I don’t know what to diagnose,” Gordon said when asked if the car would be scrutinized upon returning Tuesday to Team Penske headquarters in Mooresville, North Carolina. “We fired back off on another set with air back in it, and I thought ran better laps than the leader did, so maybe you speculate that just that was the wrong direction on air pressure.

“But really surprising to make that small of an adjustment and have a car go from being a stage-winning car to being a lap down. … I’m really proud of the effort everybody put in, because I think outside of that one run, we were the second-best car today.”

It was a perplexing turn in a race that had gone off flawlessly for Logano until that point. After starting second, he passed Hamlin off Turn 2 with an impressive move on the outside of a Lap 83 restart. He had gained 17 stage points, ensuring that he needed only to finish ahead of Kyle Busch to advance.

“It stinks,” Logano said. “We did the first half of the race really well, we had a fast car, and it went bad from there.  I don’t get it, but it just wasn’t our year, I guess.”

These playoffs have been treacherous for Logano, who had one top five in nine races (a fourth at Texas Motor Speedway) and battled through the adversity of axle failures (Dover International Speedway), crashes (Talladega, Kansas, Martinsville) and ill-handling cars (Richmond).

“Yeah, we did not execute well,” Gordon said. “We had damage in multiple races that we had to work back from. Those are things that I’m proud of the effort everybody put in, and the fact that we didn’t have a pretty playoffs, and we still got ourselves to the point where we were one car out.”

Because he netted 30 playoff points during a solid regular season, Logano still nearly reached the championship round for the fourth time.

“We scratched and clawed and made a race out of it with a lot of adversity throughout these playoffs,” he said. “We’ve had a pretty ugly run.  We’ve had some good cars, but something has happened every single race, so it is what it is.

“I don’t have the answer of what happened.  I wish I did.  I really want to know, but no one has it right now.”

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.