Denny Hamlin wins the Daytona 500 for second consecutive year

1 Comment

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).

Long: 100 days left in 2020, what else can happen?

Leave a comment

What’s next?

In a season of change that has zoomed through NASCAR like history did in Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” 100 days remain in the year. That’s plenty of time for more upheaval.

Remember the beginning of the season when talk centered on the championship race moving to Phoenix Raceway this year?

That was back when teams practiced and qualified before races, before drivers chose what lane to restart, before midweek races.

The novel coronavirus pandemic forced NASCAR and all sports to change, but when NASCAR returned after a 10-week break in May to Darlington without spectators, that was only the beginning of a season unlike any other.

Michael Jordan’s entry into the sport Monday night capped a day that started with Chip Ganassi hiring Ross Chastain to drive its No. 42 car next year and a report that NASCAR would add another road course to the 2021 schedule and move the All-Star Race.

The 2021 schedule has not been released so that is something to look forward to at some point in the next 100 days. The timeline on when it will be revealed continues to change, so let’s just say it will be out by Christmas, if not sooner. Who knows, there still might be more road course races on next year’s schedule. 

This is what we know of 2021: It won’t feature the Next Gen car, which has been delayed to 2022; the Daytona 500 is scheduled to open the season on Valentine’s Day; and Nashville Superspeedway will host Cup cars for the first time in June, the first in a four-year agreement.

Oh, and we also know where Bubba Wallace will be racing in 2021. He’ll drive for a team co-owned by Jordan and Denny Hamlin. JTG Daugherty Racing co-owner Brad Daugherty says of the three: “I think it’s a pretty dynamic trio with Michael, Denny and Bubba. They’re going to be like rock stars.”

The sport’s quiet rock star, seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, is watching his final full-time season — don’t worry he hints that he’ll look to run a few Cup races when his IndyCar schedule allows — end with muted fanfare in front of empty stands or socially distanced crowds.

Hendrick Motorsports has yet to announce who it will add to its driver lineup with Johnson’s departure. That’s just among the unknowns with 100 days left in the year and 145 days until next year’s Daytona 500. Erik Jones, Matt DiBenedetto, Clint Bowyer, Corey LaJoie, Daniel Suarez and Matt Kenseth have yet to announce plans for next year. The status of Kyle Larson’s return looms over all of them.

One of the bigger questions on the track is if Kyle Busch can win a Cup race this season. He’s won at least one series race in each of the past 15 years, a streak that ranks tied for sixth on the all-time list with Hall of Famers Dale Earnhardt, Darrell Waltrip and Tony Stewart.

“It’s really important,” Busch said of the streak. “Think about it, it’s a 16-year investment that we’ve placed on that being able to win a race in 16 consecutive seasons. Hopefully we can keep that going and get it to 17 and then to 18 or however many that I’m here.”

Busch came close last weekend at Bristol, the first time that track hosted a playoff race. It was part of the revamped playoff schedule that has Bristol, the Charlotte Roval and Martinsville as elimination races, NASCAR’s way of ramping the intensity as the season comes to a close.

There weren’t fireworks on the track but the 30,000 fans at Bristol saw a spellbinding battle between Harvick and Busch for the win over the final laps. Harvick prevailed for his ninth win of the season. Only two drivers in the last quarter century have won 10 or more races.

Fans are slowly returning to the track, although there won’t be any at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend. Charlotte Motor Speedway found out Tuesday that North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper will permit outdoor arenas with seating capacity of more than 10,000 to be filled to 7% capacity. Charlotte races in May were run without fans and the All-Star Race was moved to Bristol in July because Bristol could have fans and Charlotte could not.

Social initiatives, including the banning of the Confederate flag at NASCAR races and tracks, were added this summer.

“Ultimately,” NASCAR President Steve Phelps said in June, “when we get back to full grandstands, everyone who walks through the gates or on to our property or one of our tracks or where our races are being held will understand that they will not see the Confederate flag.”

That was among the key changes that Jordan said drew him to joining Hamlin as an owner of NASCAR’s newest Cup team.

“Historically, NASCAR has struggled with diversity and there have been few Black owners,” Jordan said in a statement. “The timing seemed perfect as NASCAR is evolving and embracing social change more and more. In addition to the recent commitment and donations I have made to combat systemic racism, I see this as a chance to educate a new audience and open more opportunities for Black people in racing.”

Jordan’s entrance is significant. But the way this season has gone, a global sports icon joining NASCAR? That’s called Tuesday.

With 100 days left in the year, there’s plenty more change ahead.

 and on Facebook

 

NASCAR Power Rankings: Kevin Harvick back at No. 1

NASCAR Power Rankings
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Stop us if you’ve heard this before: Kevin Harvick is the No. 1 driver in this week’s NASCAR rankings.

Martin Truex Jr. held the top spot for just a week before Harvick reclaimed the crown with his series-leading ninth Cup win of the year Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway.

This week’s rankings includes three ties as 12 drivers received votes.

More: Playoff standings after Round of 16

Harvick takes his power rankings lead to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the start of the Round of 12.

Here is this week’s NASCAR Power Rankings:

1. Kevin Harvick (Last week No. 1): The Stewart-Haas Racing driver has three wins in the last five races: Dover, the Southern 500 and Bristol night race.

2. Chase Elliott (Last week No. 7): Finished seventh at Bristol for his third top 10 in five races. His 11 top fives so far matches his total from each of the last two seasons. He scored a career-high 12 top fives in 2017.

3. (tie) Kyle Busch (Last week No.  9): Finished second in Bristol after he started from the rear due to inspection failures. Has three consecutive top 10s for the first time this season.

3. (tie) Joey Logano (Last week No. 3): Followed consecutive third-place finishes with an 11th at Bristol.

5. (tie) Martin Truex Jr. (Last week No. 1): Finished 24th in Bristol following contact with Denny Hamlin after an unscheduled pit stop.

5. (tie) Brad Keselowski (Last week No. 5): After winning at Richmond, Keselowski had a rough night in Bristol. He finished 34th due to power steering problems.

7. (tie) Aric Almirola (Last week unranked): Finished fifth in Bristol for his third consecutive top 10 and his fourth in five races.

7. (tie) Clint Bowyer (Last week unranked): Placed sixth in Bristol for his third consecutive top-10 finish and to keep his playoff chances alive.

9. Austin Dillon (Last week No. 3): Placed a respectable 12th to finish the first round after consecutive top fives.

10. Erik Jones (Last week unranked): Placed third in Bristol for his seventh top-five finish of the season and his second in the last three races.

Also receiving votes: Alex Bowman and Denny Hamlin

NASCAR Silly season features Bubba Wallace, Michael Jordan

Leave a comment

NASCAR Silly Season took a twist Monday. A day that started with the announcement that Ross Chastain would drive for Chip Ganassi Racing next year ended with the news that Denny Hamlin would co-own a team with Michael Jordan and have Bubba Wallace as the driver in 2021.

As JTG Daugherty Racing co-owner Brad Daugherty said: “I think it’s a pretty dynamic trio with Michael, Denny and Bubba. They’re going to be like rock stars.”

The 26-year-old Wallace is in his third full Cup season. All 105 of his starts in NASCAR’s premier series have been with Richard Petty Motorsports.

“Bubba has shown tremendous improvement since joining the Cup Series and we believe he’s ready to take his career to a higher level,” Hamlin said in a statement. “He deserves the opportunity to compete for race wins and our team will make sure he has the resources to do just that. Off the track, Bubba has been a loud voice for change in our sport and our country. MJ and I support him fully in those efforts and stand beside him.”

A team name, car number, manufacturer and sponsors will be announced at a later time.

ANNOUNCED CUP RIDES FOR 2021

No. 00: Quin Houff enters the second year of his two-year deal with StarCom Racing.

No. 1: Kurt Busch enters the second year of a multi-year contract that Chip Ganassi Racing announced last season.

No. 2: Brad Keselowski and Team Penske announced a contract extension Aug. 3.

No. 4: Kevin Harvick signed a contract extension in February that will keep him at Stewart-Haas Racing through the 2023 season.

No. 8: Tyler Reddick said Aug. 7 that he will be back with Richard Childress Racing next season.

No. 9: Chase Elliott is under contract with Hendrick Motorsports through the 2022 season.

No. 10: Aric Almirola extends deal with Stewart-Haas Racing for 2021 season.

No. 11: Denny Hamlin is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 12: Ryan Blaney and Team Penske announced a multi-year extension earlier this season.

No. 18: Kyle Busch is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 19: Martin Truex Jr. is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 20: Christopher Bell moves from Leavine Family Racing to take over this ride in 2021.

No. 22: Joey Logano is tied to Team Penske “through the 2022 season and beyond.”

No. 24: William Byron is under contact with Hendrick Motorsports through 2022.

No. 42: Ross Chastain takes over Chip Ganassi Racing’s ride for the 2021 season.

No. 47: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. enters the second year of a multi-year deal with JTG Daugherty Racing.

No. 88: Alex Bowman will race for Hendrick Motorsports under a one-year contract extension announced earlier this year.

No. TBA: Bubba Wallace joins the new team co-owned by Denny Hamlin and NBA great Michael Jordan. The team purchased Germain Racing’s charter. Germain Racing will not continue after this season.

 

Available/possibly available rides

No. 14: Clint Bowyer is in a contract year to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing.

No. 21: Matt DiBenedetto said Sept. 17 that Wood Brothers Racing has an option to pick up his contract for next year and the deadline is the end of September.

No. 32: Ride is open with Corey LaJoie announcing he will not return to Go Fas Racing in 2021.

No. 43: Bubba Wallace will not return to Richard Petty Motorsports in 2021, the team confirmed on Sept. 10.

No. 48: With Jimmie Johnson retiring from full-time competition, Hendrick Motorsports has this seat to fill.

No. 95: Spire Motorsports purchased the charter and assets of Leavine Family Racing and will be a two-car operation in 2021.

No. 96: Daniel Suarez and Gaunt Brothers Racing announced Sept. 15 that they would part ways after this season.

 

Brad Daugherty: Michael Jordan to NASCAR is ‘huge moment’

Leave a comment

Brad Daugherty calls Michael Jordan’s ownership of a Cup team a “huge moment for NASCAR.”

Jordan and Denny Hamlin will co-own a Cup team next season. Bubba Wallace will be the driver. Jordan will become the first Black majority car owner of a full-time team since Wendell Scott owned and raced cars in the 1960s and ‘70s.

Daugherty, the only Black owner of a full-time Cup team currently, is excited about Jordan’s entrance into NASCAR.

“It’s a big momentum shift for this sport culturally, period,” said Daugherty, co-owner of JTG Daugherty Racing and an analyst for NBC Sports. “Three years ago, this would have never happened. A year ago, this wouldn’t have happened. It’s the timing. If the timing is right and you have someone like Michael Jordan put his brand and what he’s all about into whatever you are doing, it adds a lot of credibility. I look forward to whatever he can bring to the table to help continue to build NASCAR.”

Daugherty told NBC Sports that Jordan can help the sport reach more people.

“The eyeballs are going to be incredible,” Daugherty said of Jordan’s potential impact. “The opportunity for entrance into the sport will be made more available as far as people being aware of the availability to get involved in NASCAR as a fan or as a business. There’s just so many different areas that will light up just because of who he is and what he represents. His entire legacy creates opportunity for everyone.

“Now, we start talking diversity with what he’s able to do from a corporate standpoint and also just from a legacy standpoint with his brand. It’s going to be exciting. I’m excited because I think more people now, more than ever, will take a look at NASCAR with a keen eye and keen interest and be excited about maybe participating as a fan or as a business partner or as someone wanting to learn how to drive a race car or own a race team. The more notoriety the better.”

NASCAR stated Monday: “Michael is an iconic sports figure and celebrated champion whose fiercely competitive nature has placed him among the greatest athletes of all time. His presence at NASCAR’s top level will further strengthen the competition, excitement and momentum growing around our sport. We wish Michael and his team tremendous success.”

Jordan told The Charlotte Observer on Monday that the deal came together in about 10 days because of the chance to hire Wallace.

“When (Hamlin) told me there was a possibility of getting Bubba Wallace, I’m saying, ‘OK, this is perfect!’” Jordan told The Observer. “If I’m getting involved in NASCAR, then get a Black driver (with) a Black owner.”

For all that Jordan can bring to NASCAR, Daugherty knows that the competition can prove challenging.

“I’m sure he’s committed to next season and we’ll see how that goes and if it goes well, you go beyond that,” said Daugherty, a teammate to Jordan on the University of North Carolina basketball team. “He had a (Superbike) team for a long time and loved that. He understands it’s a different business model. He’s at the point in his life, he’s like Roger Penske and Rick Hendrick and those guys to where it’s really not a detriment to him financially if he’s not making money. We’ll have to see how much he can stomach because it’s an interesting business model for sure.”

Jordan told The Observer he’s in it to win.

“If I’m investing, if I’m a participant, then I want to win! I don’t want to be out there to be just another car,” Jordan said.

Daugherty looks forward to seeing Jordan, Hamlin and Wallace at the track.

“I think it’s a pretty dynamic trio with Michael, Denny and Bubba,” Daugherty said. “They’re going to be like rock stars.”

Daugherty also looks forward to something else next year.

“Look forward to racing against those guys,” he said, “and trying to kick their butts.”