Denny Hamlin wins the Daytona 500 for second consecutive year

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Denny Hamlin won his second consecutive Daytona 500, which ended in a last-lap wreck that left Ryan Newman in serious condition at a Daytona Beach, Florida, hospital.

Hamlin, Newman and Ryan Blaney were battling for the victory off the final turn at Daytona International Speedway when Newman’s No. 6 Ford took a hard right into the outside wall after a push from Blaney’s No. 12 Ford.

Blaney finished just a few feet behind Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota as Newman turned hard into the outside wall in a crash off the last corner on a push from Blaney’s No. 12 Ford, which had ducked down the track after wiggling on a push by Hamlin.

Newman’s No. 6 Ford flipped upside down and was hit hard in the driver’s side door by Corey LaJoie‘s No. 32 Ford. Newman’s Musang slid a few hundred feet on its roof, coming to a stop at the exit of the pits as fuel appeared to be spilling from its rear end.

It took safety workers more than 10 minutes after the checkered flag to extricate Newman from his damaged Mustang.

Newman was transported to nearby Halifax Medical Center and was in serious condition with injuries that weren’t life threatening, according to Roush Fenway Racing.

“No. 1 we’re praying for Ryan (Newman),” Hamlin said in a subdued victory lane celebration. “I worked really well with Ryan throughout the whole race. Obviously, he got turned right there.”

Hamlin outdueled the two Ford drivers in the second overtime restart Monday after Blaney and Newman briefly had teamed up to pass him on the backstretch of the final lap.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver won by 0.014 seconds, the second-closest finish in Daytona 500 history. He also won the closest finish in the 2016 Daytona 500 when he outdueled Martin Truex Jr.

Hamlin became the fourth back-to-back winner of the Daytona 500, joining Richard Petty (1973-74), Cale Yarborough (1983-84) and Sterling Marlin (1994-95).

With his 38th career victory, Hamlin joined Bobby Allison, Dale Jarrett and Jeff Gordon as three-time Daytona 500 winners.

Multiple crashes in final laps

Several contenders were eliminated in a 19-car crash with 16 laps remaining. The chain-reaction wreck began when Joey Logano bumped Aric Almirola, who lost control and hit leader Brad Keselowski.

It was the second wreck of Speedweeks involving the Team Penske Fords, but unlike in the Busch Clash wreck, Keselowski put the blame on himself instead of Logano this time.

“I should have covered myself better and didn’t,” Keselowski, who remains winless in 11 attempts at the Daytona 500, told Fox. “It’s my fault. I kind of put myself in position for that.”

The wreck also eliminated Jimmie Johnson, who might have made his last start in the Daytona 500, Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Matt DiBenedetto.

Logano scooted through the mess unscathed, and the race was stopped for just over 12 minutes for cleanup.

Defending Cup champion Kyle Busch was leading with 25 laps remaining but suffered a mechanical problem with 20 to go and remains winless in 15 tries at the Great American Race.

Pole-sitter Ricky Stenhouse Jr. led the first 23 laps and was in contention for his first Daytona 500 victory before being penalized by NASCAR for dipping below the yellow line while advancing position with 40 laps remaining. The pole-sitter seemed to have been trying to avoid causing a major wreck when he swerved after contact with Ryan Blaney.

Stenhouse would crash about 15 laps later after contact with Erik Jones but managed to reach the pits without causing a yellow.

William Byron, who started fourth after winning the second qualifying race last Thursday, finished 40th after his No. 24 Chevrolet was the first car out of the race in a crash near the end of the 65-lap first stage. On Lap 59, Byron went for a ride through the grass after getting bumped by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. twice on the backstretch.

“I feel like there’s really no reason to be that aggressive moving across my bumper, but it is what it is,” Byron told Fox. “We’ll go on to Vegas and go try to win that one.”

The race restarted under caution at 4:05 p.m. Monday after only the second postponement in the 62-year history of the Daytona 500.

Trump honorary race starter

A series of mid-afternoon storms limited racing to only 20 laps Sunday. NASCAR was a half-lap from having honorary starter Dale Earnhardt Jr. wave the green flag for the start when the green flag initially was waved off at 3:29 p.m. Three minutes later, the skies opened up around the speedway, forcing a red flag for track drying from the passing shower.

The field was paced on its first lap by the motorcade of President Trump, who gave the command to start engines at 3:07 p.m. and then was greeted by a group of NASCAR officials and team owners, including Richard Childress, Chip Ganassi, Joe Gibbs, Rick Hendrick, Richard Petty, Roger Penske and Jack Roush.

Air Force One landed at Daytona International Airport just behind the backstretch shortly after 1 p.m., and Trump addressed the crowd from a stage in victory lane about 90 minutes later. In prepared remarks, Trump described the Daytona 500 as “pure American glory” and a “legendary display of roaring engines, soaring spirits and the American skill, speed and power. The tens of thousands of patriots here today have come for the fast cars and the world-class motorsports. But NASCAR fans never forget that no matter who wins the race, what matters most is God, family and country.”

Trump’s visit marked the fourth time a sitting U.S. president has attended a NASCAR race at Daytona. President Ronald Reagan was the first in July 4, 1984, witnessing Richard Petty’s 200th career victory. President George H.W. Bush attended the July 4,1992 race, and his son, George W. Bush, became the first president to attend the Daytona 500 on Feb. 15, 2004.

Trump said this was the fifth time he’d attended the Daytona 500.

“It really is the great American race,” Trump told Fox Sports in an interview after his address. “I look at it as almost a patriotism kind of thing. We love NASCAR. We love the people of NASCAR.”

Trump departed the track about 15 minutes after the rain hit, and Air Force One took off at 4:10 p.m., about 10 minutes before the green flag fell for the first time Sunday.

Stage 1 winner: Chase Elliott

Stage 2 winner: Denny Hamlin

What’s next: The first 1.5-mile race of the season will take place at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on February 23 at 3:30 p.m. ET (Fox).

NBC eSports Short Track iRacing Challenge to debut Monday

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Reigning Cup champion Kyle Busch, three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin and NASCAR on NBC analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr. are among the headliners in the NASCAR America presents the NBC eSports Short Track Challenge.

The week-long event begins at 7 p.m. ET on Monday on NBCSN.

From Monday-Wednesday, six different drivers will compete in two timed races in Cup Series cars at an iconic track at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. The top two finishers from each night will advance to the championship race at the virtual Martinsville Speedway on NBCSN.

Monday night’s races will be at a virtual Rockingham Speedway

Tuesday night’s races will be at a virtual Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis.

Wednesday night’s races will be at a virtual Myrtle Beach Speedway.

Thursday night’s championship race will be at a virtual Martinsville Speedway.

Here is the driver lineup for each night:

Monday at Rockingham Speedway: Kyle Busch, William Byron, Austin Dillon, Parker Kligerman, Tyler Reddick and Bubba Wallace.

Tuesday at Lucas Oil Raceway: Justin Allgaier, Christopher Bell, Chase Briscoe, Harrison Burton, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson.

Wednesday at Myrtle Beach Speedway: Landon Cassill, Matt DiBenedetto, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Timmy Hill, Ryan Preece and Myatt Snider.

“We’re proud to continue our successful collaboration with iRacing and NASCAR, which began last year, to produce the NBC eSports Short Track iRacing Challenge,” said Jeff Behnke, vice president, production, NASCAR on NBC and NBCSN. “Thanks to all the drivers from the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series for joining in what should be four consecutive nights of entertainment and fun for all the great race fans and viewers.”

“Of all of the events we’ve been putting together for real-world pros, the NBC eSports Short Track iRacing Challenge should be one of the most fun,” said Steve Myers, iRacing executive producer. “So many of the top drivers in NASCAR have honed their skills on both local short tracks and iRacing, and combining the two for a virtual week-long showdown should deliver plenty of excitement. We can’t wait to see who takes the checkered flag and bragging rights!”

This marks the latest collaboration between NBC Sports and iRacing, which began in 2019 when NBC Sports telecast the first-ever eNASCAR live event on television. NBC Sports and iRacing teamed up to present the 2019 eNASCAR PEAK Antifreeze iRacing Championship in a two-hour event live on NBCSN last October. Earlier this year, it was announced that six races of the 2020 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series Playoffs will air live on NBCSN later this fall.

NBC Sports NASCAR commentators Rick Allen and Steve Letarte will call the action, including interviews with drivers during the races. Jeff Burton and Marty Snider will host the NBC eSports Short Track iRacing Challenge via Zoom.

April 2 in NASCAR history: Dale Jr. gets first Cup win in Texas

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One day late in matching his father’s own achievement 21 years earlier, Dale Earnhardt Jr. began etching his name in the history of the Cup Series on April 2, 2000 with his first career win.

The victory came at Texas Motor Speedway, the same track the third-generation driver earned his first Xfinity Series win at two years earlier.

Earnhardt led 106 of 334 laps and beat Jeff Burton to score the victory in just his 12th career start, four races sooner than his father’s first win in 1979. The victory also was the first for Dale Earnhardt Inc. in the Cup Series.

“I’ll tell you what, that was the hardest race I’ve ever drove,” Earnhardt told CBS in Victory Lane. “Had the flu all day long, all week long, felt pretty good. Once the race started, we had a good race car and I was pretty happy.”

Earnhardt’s victory was the last time a Cup Series driver earned their first career win at Texas Motor Speedway.

Also on this date:

1967: Driving for the Wood Brothers, Cale Yarborough led 301 of 334 laps at Atlanta to earn his second Cup win and his first on a speedway.

1978: Darrell Waltrip beat John Utsman (relief driver for Benny Parsons) by one lap to earn his first of a record 12 career Cup wins at Bristol Motor Speedway.

1989: Harry Gant ended a 90-race winless streak with a dominant win at Darlington. He led 171 of the last 180 laps to beat Davey Allison and Geoff Bodine. The race was plagued by a 19-lap caution at one point in order to correct a scoring error that gave Gant a one-lap lead on the field.

1995: Jeff Gordon earns his first of four consecutive wins in the Food City 500 at Bristol. It was his third win in the first six races of the season, as Gordon would go on to claim his first Cup Series championship.

Kevin Harvick, Tony Kanaan discuss IndyCar-NASCAR doubleheader

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Over a 22-year IndyCar career featuring its share of adversity, Tony Kanaan has learned to embrace trying to find the positives in a negative situation.

He believes NASCAR and IndyCar will find a tiny silver lining from the novel coronavirus pandemic. The series will race on the same day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course in a July 4 doubleheader, which he believes sends a message of unity he’d like to see from the world during this dark period.

“It’s time to send that message (of unity),” Kanaan told “Happy Hours” hosts Kevin Harvick and Matt Yocum in a Wednesday afternoon interview on SiriusXM’s NASCAR Channel. “If we don’t come out of this situation as better people, globally, in every way, shape or form … it’s just being kind to people. Hopefully, we’ll be sending the right messages, doing radio shows together, doing live on Instagram together, doing races together.”

Click here to read the entire story on NBCSports.com’s MotorSportsTalk page.

How NASCAR and racing community are helping in COVID-19 fight

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Given the emphasis on safety in racing, NASCAR and several other motorsports entities are increasingly pivoting to focus on safety in other areas to help out during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The biggest emphasis is on personal protective equipment for health care workers as well as things such as respirators for those infected with coronavirus.

According to a report by The Associated Press, here are what several groups across NASCAR and other motorsports series are doing:

* NASCAR’s Research and Technology Center in Concord, North Carolina has shifted from building parts and working on the Next Gen car to producing face shields.

According to the AP report, NASCAR has a team of eight engineers volunteering their time to keep five 3D printers operating nearly 18 hours per day to produce protective face shields for health care workers. The largest printer is capable of producing three shields every 2 ½ hours.

“That’s the one we try to keep running almost nonstop,” Eric Jacuzzi, senior director of NASCAR’s aerodynamics and vehicle performance, told the AP. “You are sitting around watching the news and you think, ‘We just put this big, beautiful new machine in, let’s see what we can do and use it for something good.’”

NASCAR is donating all shields it produces to health care facilities and workers. It is also working with North Carolina State University as consultants to help hospitals with their own 3D printers to produce personal protective equipment, according to the AP report.

* Ford is embarking this week on a project to build as many as 50,000 ventilators in the next 100 days, according to the AP. The company has also lent a team of engineers and is providing facilities and equipment to help 3M build respirators.

Todd Hoevener, Ford Director of Technology, Strategy and Planning, told SiriusXM NASCAR on the “Happy Hours” program Wednesday afternoon, “This week we are ramping up to be able to ship one million (face shields) by the end of the week.”

* Chevrolet’s parent company, General Motors, is working with Ventic Life Systems to produce more than 50,000 face masks daily, as well as is ramping up production to build 10,000 ventilators per month, according to the AP.

* Toyota is also producing face shields and working to manufacturer ventilators, as well, according to the AP.

* NASCAR Cup driver Brad Keselowski’s company, Keselowski Advanced Manufacturing, is using 3D printers and CNC machines to build face shields.

* Roush Fenway Racing has donated 1.5 cases of N95 masks to Lake Norman Regional Medical Center and donated shields and safety glasses elsewhere. The team told the AP it is producing aerosol boxes that “protect medical professionals as they treat COVID-19 patients.” In addition, parent company Roush Industries is working on developing other personal protective equipment.

* Hendrick Motorsports has redirected some of its manufacturing resources to produce face shields for healthcare workers. Other NASCAR teams that have donated masks or other supplies include Team Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing and JR Motorsports.

* IMSA team CORE Autosport told the AP it has produced and sold several thousand face masks for health care professionals.

* Technique Inc., which produces chassis kits for NASCAR teams, has repurposed its Jackson, Michigan factory – just a few miles from Michigan International Speedway – and expects to increase production to 20,000 face shields by the end of this week, according to the AP.

* The largest team in NHRA drag racing, Don Schumacher Racing, is using its two 3D printers non-stop to build headbands that attach to face shields, the AP reported.

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