‘NASCAR’s toughest job’: Steve O’Donnell often is the man in the middle of everything


Editor’s note — This profile of Steve O’Donnell is the second in a two-part series on NASCAR grappling with its season restart during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thursday’s  entry on the inside story of how NASCAR restarted its season can be found here.

It was during a meeting between NASCAR drivers and series executives at Daytona International Speedway in July 2019 when Steve O’Donnell and Kevin Harvick exchanged sideways glances.

A feud that began a few months earlier – in a SiriusXM satellite radio interview, O’Donnell intimated drivers might have sabotaged group qualifying to force its abolition; a day later, Harvick angrily called him out by name during his program on the same channel – suddenly exploded into a heated face-to-face discussion that de-escalated only after officials stood between them.

For O’Donnell, there were no lingering hard feelings – just another reminder that an oft-thankless job even can put him at odds with Harvick, a driver whom he has “the most respect of all because he gets it as much as anyone.

“Harvick and I have gone at it many times, almost to blows,” O’Donnell told NBC Sports. “But he also has told me, ‘If I was you, I’d be the most hated man in NASCAR.’ Because your job is just to take shit and then make a decision. He’s a guy who taught me that you don’t have to like each other all the time, and that I can’t be liked by everyone, which is hard for me to grasp. All I can hope for is to be respected.

“I like most of (the drivers). I want to hear from them. But I also realize I’m the guy who has to make the call when we fine them.”

As the executive senior vice president and chief racing development officer, O’Donnell often winds up making many critical calls on which tracks that NASCAR will visit in the future or the aerodynamic and horsepower rules that govern how its cars will race.

And despite his epiphany that those duties can preclude making friends, forming bonds might be the greatest strength of a 25-year NASCAR employee who has risen to the top of the sanctioning body while working in nearly every department (marketing, operations, competition) and offices across the company (from New York to Daytona Beach to Charlotte).

NASCAR Steve O'Donnell
NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell at a Sept. 30 news conference to announce the 2021 season at Texas Motor Speedway (Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images).

The relationships that he built have proved especially useful this year as O’Donnell spearheaded an unprecedented display of cooperation among workgroups across the NASCAR industry during the nine-week layoff because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, helping course correct the 2020 season back on track while also charting next year’s slate of racetracks and a NextGen car rollout.

“The job he’s done has been incredible,” NASCAR president Steve Phelps told NBC Sports. “That’s due largely in part to his leadership. Steve would say, ‘Hey, I’ve got good people around me,’ and that’s true, but it really comes with the relationships he has with the garage.

“He’s earned the trust and respect of the teams because he’s a man of his word who does what he says he’s going to do. Steve and his team have just done such a great job of getting the industry aligned. He’s just got good relationships with people and nurtures those. People trust him. When our format changed with the stages, Steve was the architect of that and bringing everyone together who should have a seat at the table.”

Speedway Motorsports president and CEO Marcus Smith jokes that he usually texts O’Donnell only to “tell him something good” about a race or a call being made because Smith “doesn’t want to add to other issues.

“I don’t think anybody in sports has a tougher job than Steve O’Donnell because he has so many important people to answer to,” Smith told NBC Sports. “He’s got his bosses in Jim (France), Lesa (France Kennedy) and Steve (Phelps). He’s got the promoters like me. He’s got Rick Hendrick, Roger Penske and Coach (Joe) Gibbs on the team side. And then every driver, crew chief, manufacturer and TV network.

“Steve is the one everybody has on speed dial if they have an issue. He leads the most important part of our sport, and that’s competition because everything follows from its quality. So he has to handle a lot of hot potatoes, and this year has been his best year. NASCAR has done a really good job of building the executive team to handle these tough situations, and we’ve got our best relationship now than we’ve ever had with NASCAR as a company.”

Phelps notes that O’Donnell is “not a racing guy” unlike many other past and current NASCAR competition executives who have spent a lifetime working in garages – but it’s meant as a compliment in this instance.

“Steve is very, very passionate and always wants the sport to shine and excel, and he takes it personally when we don’t,” Roush Fenway Racing president Steve Newmark told NBC Sports. “He is very good at taking a whole laundry list of issues and prioritizing what’s really critical for all the stakeholders. The key is Steve has that rare combination of technical expertise and an in-depth understanding of the business side. Steve bridges those two worlds and because of that, he’s able to collaborate with broadcasters, tracks, drivers, teams and his bosses at the league and try to make sure we come out with the best solution.”

The list of those who have overseen NASCAR’s competition like O’Donnell is fairly short, with the primary names being Bill France, Bill France Jr., Les Richter and Mike Helton.

There are many ways O’Donnell, who moved into his role five years ago, is different. He didn’t arrive with a pedigree, nor a high-profile resume.

None of his predecessors had to deal with the incessantly screeching din of social media (where O’Donnell’s Twitter account frequently is deluged with angry fans after lackluster races).

And technology also puts O’Donnell in more constant contact with drivers through a text chain that he started. It’s helped him find some go-to drivers for advice such as Harvick, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch, and it’s a more effective method than the quarterly meetings of the now defunct Drivers Council (which O’Donnell said required too many members, dulling its effectiveness with ambivalence).

But it also comes with some daily headaches.

NASCAR Steve O'Donnell
Steve O’Donnell updated the media on the status of Ryan Newman after he was injured in the Daytona 500 during a Feb. 22 news conference in Las Vegas (Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images).

“To have this open line of communication had never happened before,” Fox Sports analyst Jeff Gordon told NBC Sports. “And Steve gets beat up all the time that way by drivers who have had bad days, and he has to take that abuse and still make the decisions that can affect them. Yet, I also think because of that text chain, we’ve gotten further with safety. We’ve gotten further with fan engagement and the racing. I think the sport has improved because of it.”

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve texted him and said, ‘I’m glad I don’t have your job,’” Logano told NBC Sports. “I don’t envy his position at all, but I respect him for it. He’s smart enough to know he’s not an expert in every area, and he’s humble enough to take everyone’s opinion and make decisions. He cuts through the B.S. to understand who’s really trying to help and who’s trying to help themselves but also in trying to figure out what is best for the sport by a bit of a committee.”

Though he’s a consensus builder, O’Donnell also is known to be combative when he feels unjustly criticized. “He’s not afraid to have the hard conversation or voice his opinion,” Phelps said.

During the race manipulation scandal in the 2013 regular-season finale at Richmond Raceway, Gordon “fired off a very heated opinion” about NASCAR’s handling and was surprised when O’Donnell immediately shot back in defense.

“I saw the fiery side of Steve, but I also got to see how much he cares,” Gordon said. “We were always good from that point, even though we have the moments we don’t agree.”

O’Donnell also can be a sympathetic ear when needed. Toyota Racing Development president David Wilson said when the manufacturer struggled mightily during its first season, a motorhome meeting at Texas Motor Speedway with O’Donnell helped assuage Toyota’s frustration that it lacked “a healthy relationship” with NASCAR.

“I articulated in a very transparent way a number of these concerns we had,” Wilson told NBC Sports. “Steve was amazing in that he was embarrassed about it, and it was unacceptable. He expressed candidly that a lot of these things were endemic of the sport at that time, and he genuinely shared his determination to change those things and give Toyota a sense that it would have a shot.

“You can have a beer with Steve and enjoy his company while shifting between talking shop and socializing. He’s always been good at that and giving you a sense he cares.”

One of O’Donnell’s favorite expressions is “That’s fair,” which comes up multiple times over the course of an interview that runs more than two hours.

So does Twitter, which has been a sore spot. O’Donnell was among the first in NASCAR to join the platform but recently took a sabbatical because of too much fan negativity (including some threats).

But he concedes that he also could be overly engaged, particularly in taking umbrage at how a race was perceived or how fans absorbed an overhaul to the engine-horsepower combination aimed to improve racing at 1.5-mile intermediate tracks (which NASCAR tacitly has backed off on while reducing the number of intermediates on its 2021 schedule).

“I’m too sensitive, and I take things too personally,” O’Donnell said. “I’ve tried to work on that.”

He also can be self-critical to a fault and has fretted about falling short of knowing drivers as well as the late NASCAR PR guru Jim Hunter, a mentor to O’Donnell and many NASCAR stars.

“Jim Hunter did a much better job than me of communicating,” said O’Donnell, who went through a period of inviting Cup drivers over for dinner. “I struggle with this, but I don’t look at myself as a guy who should be able to pull Ryan Blaney aside and just say, “Man, how’s it going?’ But I look at Hunter and the respect that he had with Tony Stewart and Harvick, and that’s really cool. How do I get that? That’s been one I’ve struggled with, and listening is more of my fallback of, ‘Hey, got any ideas? Let me run with it.’ ”

NASCAR Steve O'Donnell
Jim Hunter, the late vice president of corporate communications for NASCAR, was a mentor and role model in driver relationships for executive vice president Steve O’Donnell (Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR).

Hamlin said O’Donnell has done well with balancing what drivers want vs. what NASCAR needs despite the inevitable confrontations that can arise from that.

“We aren’t afraid to call each other out,” Hamlin told NBC Sports. “I hold Steve and his team accountable for things they’re not doing right, and they do the same thing with the drivers.

“It looks like we’re butting heads, but we’re also having open conversations that people can’t be afraid to have. That’s how you grow by continuing to listen. And I think Steve really has done a good job of balancing what drivers believe is better for competition to what NASCAR thinks is better, and he’s been implementing it. He’s listening to us, and that’s been a difference. His leadership on the competition side really has been a big improvement from early in my career.”

O’Donnell, 51, started at NASCAR in 1996 after working in minor-league baseball and the Citrus Bowl. His first job in racing was with NASCAR’s marketing services helping run victory lane, moving on to managing the Craftsman, Winston and Anheuser-Busch accounts while also working as a jack of all trades. When NASCAR was shoring up its New York branch that was overwhelmed with sponsorship pitches in the late 1990s, O’Donnell spent six weeks answering phones at its Manhattan office while temporarily living in Brian France’s Upper East Side penthouse.

He shifted into competition and oversaw NASCAR’s weekly racing series, a collection of more than 90 short tracks across the country that kept O’Donnell constantly on the road. He was moved to the R&D Center, NASCAR’s competition hub in Concord, North Carolina, in 2007 and recalls how his arrival was greeted in the first meeting: “Who the hell is this marketing guy and how does he fit into this group?”

NASCAR Steve O'Donnell
When there are questions for NASCAR officials after races, Steve O’Donnell often fields them as he was here after the 2015 Southern 500 (Matt Sullivan/Getty Images).

But others of import took notice. Team owner Richard Childress cold-called O’Donnell and offered to fly home with him to North Carolina after a race in 2006, and O’Donnell would spend three days at his house while touring Richard Childress Racing and attending its competition meetings to learn more about competition.

When NASCAR attempted to change its rules on springs a few weeks later, O’Donnell fought and won a battle to keep things static because he knew it would be a multimillion-dollar change after seeing an RCR warehouse full of springs that cost several hundred apiece.

“That helped start my credibility,” O’Donnell said. “Richard took it upon himself to say, ‘For you to succeed, you need to learn what the hell we do.’ ”

O’Donnell has a natural aptitude for education. Born in New Jersey and raised in Massachusetts, he is the son of a principal and a kindergarten teacher who moved their family to Egypt in sixth grade. He learned the principles of being an active listener in the supercharged environment of being a high school freshman whose Egyptian and Israeli classmates passionately debated diametrically opposed views on the Six-Day War. The overseas exposure also has fueled O’Donnell’s passion for racial equality.

“It gave me a perspective to listen to other people’s perspectives and cultures,” he said. “It’s just been part of who I am. I enjoy talking to people. I don’t think I’m the smartest guy in the room, so what can I learn.”

He feeds his intellectual curiosity by exclusively reading nonfiction and watching documentaries (a recent viewing was on Heini Zachariassen, the founder of the wine app Vivino). He also is a voracious consumer of podcasts (he is a fan of “Flying Coach” with the Golden State Warriors’ Steve Kerr, whose brother, Andrew, was one of O’Donnell’s best high school friends in Egypt).

He is a rabid sports fan (the Yankees, New York Giants and Tottenham of the Premier League are among his favorites) who constantly benchmarks NASCAR against other pro sports in both competition and outreach – particularly with the need to showcase drivers’ personalities.

During a conversation about NASCAR’s restart, O’Donnell frequently posed open questions about the steps taken by the U.S. Open, Major League Soccer and the NBA and what could be learned and applied to NASCAR (he also mentions NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood and NASCAR chief marketing officer Jill Gregory as important sounding boards for his ideas).

“He’s got a creative mind, and it’s unusual to have a 25-year employee that is willing to change as much as Steve is,” Phelps said. “He always challenges us – and we need him to – with ‘How can we do this better?’ He’ll be honest and say when he doesn’t think we had a very good race, and he’ll put it all on the game board to see if there’s a better way to do it, drive results “without being a hard charger and making people feel uncomfortable.”

Before every race he watches from NASCAR scoring tower, O’Donnell sits down beside official Mike Phillips with a playful greeting: “Don’t screw up.”

Among the things that bothers him is a garage reputation that he doesn’t smile enough. “I feel like my favorite thing to do in life is make people laugh,” O’Donnell said.

Steve O’Donnell and Denny Hamlin shared smiles during the Jan. 23, 2017 news conference to announce NASCAR  stage racing (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

He also brings a new notebook to every race he attends, filling them with observations about how NASCAR handled officiating and scoring situations. He rarely steps in during events, saving the feedback for debriefs the next week.

He wants more diversity within the NASCAR competition department, which he believes could be achieved in part by pushing for more scholarly analytics mathematicians to drive competition decisions through building five-year statistical trends. NASCAR’s youth also is a major focus for O’Donnell, who quotes a podcast he recently heard in which former NCAA basketball coach George Raveling said he hangs with younger people because “people my age, all they talk about is dying.”

“I have completely failed if I haven’t identified the next leadership team at R&D that all the industry believes in,” O’Donnell said. “So that drives me.”

His current competition department is hand-picked with Scott Miller, competition director Jay Fabian and senior innovation VP John Probst all having joined over the past four seasons. O’Donnell believes it’s brought NASCAR credibility.

“We’re never going to out-engineer a team, but if we have the right guys who at least they respect, that’s huge,” said O’Donnell, who also relies heavily on NASCAR operations manager Tom Swindell. “And I’ve seen that, and it’s been a godsend. Jim Hunter taught me this. Hire people who are smarter than you, and you’ll be good. If you try and run it, you’ll be dead”

Miller was hired  after being suggested to O’Donnell … by Harvick (who had worked with Miller at RCR).

O’Donnell said he put things right with Harvick shortly after the blowup at Daytona.

“We’re on the same page a lot more often than not and are alike in many ways,” he said. “Because I know where he stands. And when he says, ‘Hey, you should look at this,’ we will.”

Steve O’Donnell congratulated Kevin Harvick after his Nov. 5, 2017 NASCAR victory at Texas Motor Speedway (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

Corey LaJoie learning in his week with Chase Elliott’s team


Spending this week with Hendrick Motorsports has proved eye-opening for Corey LaJoie.

He will pilot Chase Elliott’s No. 9 car today at World Wide Technology Raceway after NASCAR suspended Elliott one race for wrecking Denny Hamlin during last week’s Coca-Cola 600. This gives LaJoie the chance to drive in the best equipment of his career.

MORE: Corey LaJoie not giving up on his dream 

MORE: Details for Sunday’s Cup race

Working with Elliott’s team also has given LaJoie an inside look as to what makes Hendrick Motorsports so successful.

“I thought that I knew what we didn’t have at Spire Motorsports, but I had no idea,” said LaJoie, who starts 30th after tagging the wall during his qualifying lap. “There’s tools that those guys have, intellectual properties specific to Hendrick Motorsports, that even some of the other teams don’t have.

“But the biggest thing that I noticed was just the people and the attitude of the pursuit of perfection. All the key partner teams across all the (manufacturers) all have the same data, but (Hendrick Motorsports has) an unbelievable way of delegating, taking, compacting and making it just digestible – whether it’s for a driver, an engineer, a crew chief.

“I think the fact that they have four incredibly strong teams individually raises the tide for those guys because when you’re sitting in the simulator and William Byron ran a 33.20 (seconds for a lap) … if you’re running a 33.35 with the same setup, you know you have a tenth-and-a-half under your butt and you have to go find it. And then when I go run a 33.20, William next time is going to want to run a 33.19.

“There’s always a consistently raised watermark on the driver’s end. There’s always a consistently raised watermark on the crew chiefs in trying to build the best setups, and the engineers trying to find the best strategies.

“The inner-team competition is one of the biggest things, and I think there are several teams that have that … the healthy ones are certainly evident. But it’s just the overall structure. We have a Hawkeye (camera-based inspection stations used by NASCAR at the track) … all the things that do the same stuff that Hendrick Motorsports has, but the depth of people, collective focus of the goal and the mission is noticeable and evident. It’s a different world.”

It would be easy for LaJoie to be overwhelmed in this situation. His career has been marked with underfunded rides and trying to make the most of his equipment. He’s having his best season in Cup this year. LaJoie ranks 19th in points heading into today’s race.

LaJoie acknowledges the opportunity he has, but he also can’t let it alter his focus.

“It’s been a wild week,” he said. “I can get all sentimental … (about) my dad subbing in for Ricky Craven in 1998 (for Hendrick Motorsports) and all that sort of stuff. But at the end of the day, when I sit in that thing, I don’t know that NAPA is on it, or the No. 9 is on it.

“I’m going to drive it like I have been driving the No. 7 Chevy and putting that thing 19th in points. It’s been a super fun, successful year so far, and we have a lot of work left to do and things to accomplish over there.”

When he returns to his Spire Motorsports ride after today’s race, LaJoie admits this weekend’s experience with Elliott’s team will help him with his own team.

“How I prepare, how I’m going to engage with my team at Spire Motorsports going forward is going to change,” LaJoie said. “I think I’m going to be able to come in there and just apply and share some of the things I’ve learned over the course of the week with (crew chief Ryan) Sparks and the No. 77 team, as well, and I think we’re all going to be stronger for it.”

Dr. Diandra: Is 2023 the season for a Ricky Stenhouse Jr. redemption?


Coming into 2022, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had two career Cup Series wins in 364 starts. But both wins — and his career-high 13th-place season finish — happened back in 2017.

Stenhouse was unceremoniously dropped by Roush Fenway Racing in 2020 and landed with JTG Daugherty Racing. He made the news every now and then at a superspeedway but could be counted upon to head up season-ending lists of drivers involved in the most accidents. In the years Stenhouse hasn’t been at the top of the list, he’s been near the top.

DNFs and accidents have plagued Stenhouse throughout his NASCAR career. Jack Roush went so far as to park the Mississippi native in his early days in the Xfinity Series because he tore up so much equipment.

Stenhouse redeemed himself, going on to win two Xfinity championships.

From the way his 2023 season has started, it looks as though Stenhouse might be on a similar mission of redemption this year in the Cup Series.

Finishing races

Stenhouse started the 2023 season in the best possible way – winning the Daytona 500. But drivers from less-funded teams who win early superspeedway races usually settle to the bottom of the rankings by now.

Stenhouse hasn’t. He ranks 13th heading into Sunday’s race at World Wide Technology Raceway.

Standings aren’t as good a ruler this year as they usually are because of drivers missing races and teams incurring penalties. But Stenhouse’s statistics back up his ranking.

Stenhouse has finished every race this year on track, as opposed to in the garage or on the hook. Only Ryan Blaney and Corey LaJoie have achieved the same distinction.

In 11 of those 14 races, Stenhouse finished on the lead lap. That’s the same number of lead-lap finishes as William Byron. Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. are tied for most races finished on the lead lap with 13 each.

This time last year, Stenhouse had already racked up seven of the series-leading 18 caution-causing incidents he would be involved in for the season. Runner-up Chase Elliott had 15 incidents.

Going into Gateway this year, Stenhouse has been involved in only two accidents (Talladega and Charlotte) and had a tire go out at Darlington.

Approaching his career best

I compare three years in Stenhouse’s career in the table below: the 2017 season — his best to date — along with last year and the 14 races run so far this year.

A table comparing loop data stats for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. showing his path to redemption

Stenhouse’s current average finishing position of 13.5 ties with Christopher Bell for sixth best in the Cup Series. That’s 9.3 positions better than Stenhouse’s 2022 average. He’s even beating his 2017 average by 3.6 positions.

Qualifying results are down a bit from 2017 — but remember that those numbers are from the days when NASCAR allowed multiple practice sessions. Stenhouse is only two positions worse relative to 2017, but 7.6 positions better than last year when it comes to establishing his spot on the starting grid.

Stenhouse’s average running position is comparable to 2017 and 2.8 positions better than 2022. He ranks 20th among full-time Cup Series drivers in average running position. Although it’s an improvement, it’s still more than double William Byron’s series-leading 9.1 average running position this year.

More interesting is the difference between Stenhouse’s average running position his average finishing position. Some drivers run better than they finish. Stenhouse is doing the opposite.

In 2017, Stenhouse finished about 1.4 positions better than he ran. This year, he’s gaining an average of about five positions from where he runs.

One might argue this gain results from the plethora of late-race incidents this year that have removed drivers in the front of the field from contention. But Stenhouse deserves credit for putting himself in a position to benefit from those events.

Stenhouse’s green-flag speed rank is 11th among full-time Cup Series drivers. His 15.3 average, however, is 1.7 positions worse than 10th-place Kyle Busch. Still, it’s impressive that JTG Daugherty is right there in the mix with much better-funded teams. William Byron again has the best average green-flag speed rank at 7.9.

Consistently strong finishes

It’s not uncommon for a mid-pack driver to win a superspeedway race. But Stenhouse’s Daytona 500 win appears to be something more. The table below summarizes his wins and finishes for the same three years.

A table comparing finishes for 2017, 2022 and 2023 showing Ricky Stenhouse Jr's redemption attemptsThe difference between last year and this year is striking.

In 2022, Stenhouse finished in the top 20 in 12 of 36 races. He’s already matched that mark this year. He earns top-20 finishes 85.7% of the time in 2023 compared to 33.3% last year. Top-20 finishes aren’t the same as contending for a championship. But they’re a first step.

Stenhouse finished 2017 with nine top-10 races. With about 60% of the season remaining, he’s already earned five top-10 finishes this year.

What’s changed? The Next Gen car is one factor, but it didn’t make much difference for Stenhouse last year. I would point instead to Stenhouse’s reunion with Mike Kelley as his crew chief.

Kelley co-piloted both of Stenhouse’s Xfinity championships in 2011 and ’12. Although Kelley worked with Stenhouse and previous crew chief Brian Pattie since 2020, this is the first year Kelley is back up on the pit box.

Together, they’re basically halfway to matching Stenhouse’s best year.

And another step closer to redemption.

Portland Xfinity race results, driver points

Portland Xfinity results
Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images

Cole Custer went from fourth to first on the overtime restart when the top three cars made contact and went on to win Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Portland International Raceway. Custer is the 10th different winner in 13 races this season.

MORE: Portland Xfinity race results

MORE: Driver points after Portland Xfinity race

JR Motorsports took the next three spots: Justin Allgaier placed second, Sam Mayer was third and Josh Berry was fourth. Austin Hill completed the top five.

John Hunter Nemechek remains the points leader after 13 races. He has a 14-point lead on Hill. Nemechek leads Allgaier by 44 points.

Cole Custer wins Xfinity race at Portland in overtime


Cole Custer held off Justin Allgaier at the finish to win Saturday’s Xfinity Series race in overtime at Portland International Raceway. It is Custer’s first victory of the season.

JR Motorsports placed second, third and fourth with Allgaier, Sam Mayer and Josh Berry. Austin Hill finished fifth.

MORE: Race results, driver points

Custer went from fourth to first on the overtime restart when Parker Kligerman, who restarted third, attempted to pass Allgaier, who was leading. Sheldon Creed was on the outside of Allgaier. All three cars made contact entering Turn 1, allowing Custer to slip by. Creed finished seventh. Kligerman placed 14th.

Custer won the second stage when John Hunter Nemechek made contact with Creed’s car while racing for the lead on the final lap of the stage. The contact spun Creed and Custer inched by Nemechek at the line.

Early in the final stage, Creed gained revenge with contact that spun Nemechek, who went on to finish 10th. A few laps later, Nemechek and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Sammy Smith had issues. Smith spun Nemechek. After getting back around, Nemechek quickly caught Smith and turned into Smith’s car, damaging it.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Sheldon Creed

STAGE 2 WINNER: Cole Custer

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Despite the contact on the overtime restart, runner-up Justin Allgaier managed to score his fourth consecutive top-three finish. … Sam Mayer’s third-place finish is his best on a road course. … Austin Hill’s fifth-place finish gives him four consecutive top-five results.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Daniel Hemric finished 33rd after a fire in his car. … Riley Herbst placed 32nd after an engine issue. After opening the season with six top 10s in a row, Herbst has gone seven races in a row without a top 10.

NEXT: The series competes June 10 at Sonoma Raceway (8 p.m. ET on FS1).