A.J. Allmendinger survives wild finish to win Indy road course Cup race

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The inaugural race for the NASCAR Cup Series on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course looked poised for a straightforward finish.

But with nine laps to go in the 82-lap scheduled distance, a debris caution wiped out Kyle Larson‘s lead of over four seconds on Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott.

And with that, things got wild.

Two major crashes in the same spot on the 14-turn circuit pushed the race into double overtime. On the second OT attempt, Chase Briscoe went off course in Turn 1 while racing for the lead with Denny Hamlin, was given a stop-and-go penalty for said infraction, and then turned Hamlin around in Turn 10.

Taking advantage of the madness? A.J. Allmendinger, the full-time Xfinity Series regular for Kaulig Racing who took the lead coming to the white flag and went on to claim his second career Cup victory.

Ryan Blaney finished second. Larson and Elliott wound up third and fourth, respectively. Matt DiBenedetto completed the top five.

MORE: Indy road course Cup race results, driver points

“This is unbelievable,” Allmendinger told NBC Sports. “In my wildest dreams, I couldn’t imagine the way that just played out. … It was survival of the fittest. We probably had, like, an eighth- to 10th-place car. I sped on pit road. I thought I was gonna finish 12th to 15th. And then those restarts were just insane.

“It’s great when you have a car owner (Matt Kaulig) that just says, ‘Go get me trophies.’ He doesn’t care if that thing’s torn up.”

Allmendinger’s car wasn’t torn up at race’s end. But a lot of other cars were, thanks to the two late pileups.

Off the restart with six laps to go in the scheduled distance, Martin Truex Jr. spun in Turn 6, but the race stayed green.

Then one lap later, the inside curb covering Turn 6 came up. It had already been repaired several times during the race after pieces of debris got stuck underneath it.

William Byron hit the curb hard and spun out. Other drivers behind him did so as well. Some hit the outside barriers, including Joey Logano, whose car went hard into a tire pack.

The incident brought out the red flag for 19 minutes, 13 seconds. During that period, track workers removed the inside curb at Turn 6 and rebuilt the tire pack.

Nine drivers were officially involved according to NASCAR. There were no injuries.

“I’ve never had that experience – it basically felt like I hit a wall,” Byron told NBC Sports. “I came through that corner the same every single lap. We were running fourth there behind Larson, and he gets over the curb in the exact same spot, and something, after he hit it with his right rear, it peeled up.

“As soon as I got there, I hit something and it just threw me completely off-line. … I wasn’t off-line at all (entering the turn). I was actually safe because I saw what happened to (Larson). It looked like he jumped in the air with his right-rear (tire), and I was like, ‘Let me try to get a little bit further left.’ Obviously, I just nailed something that just came up off the track. Just a bummer.”

After the race returned to yellow-flag conditions, James Davison‘s car then dropped fluid on the track. The subsequent clean-up extended the race into overtime.

The first OT attempt ended in calamity, again at Turn 6. As Bubba Wallace went off-course, Michael McDowell went airborne over a different, horizontal curb to the inside.

The subsequent, seven-car crash saw Wallace escape the spinning McDowell (Wallace was then penalized for short-cutting the course). But others, including Cole Custer and Richard Childress Racing teammates Tyler Reddick and Austin Dillon, were swept up.

This incident brought out the red flag again for four minutes, eight seconds. There were no injuries.

That set up the second OT attempt, where Briscoe’s hopes of scoring his first career Cup victory – one year after his Xfinity win on the Indy road course – went awry with his penalty and clash with Hamlin.

Hamlin ended up 23rd at the finish, three spots ahead of the penalized Briscoe in 26th.

The two men later met on pit road to hear each other out. After they parted ways, Hamlin said he felt that Briscoe turning him wasn’t intentional, but believed Briscoe showed a “lack of awareness” in continuing to race him after he’d been penalized.

“I don’t think he was malicious,” Hamlin told NBC Sports. “I’ve raced with him for a year now. He’s not that kind of person. But it was just bad judgment.”

Unlike Hamlin, who said he was notified of Briscoe’s penalty “right away,” Briscoe maintained he didn’t get word of it until reaching Turn 10. He then tried to stop there since he didn’t know if “it’d make up for it or not.”

“I get why he was upset,” Briscoe told NBC Sports. “I would’ve been upset too. But Denny’s been in my situation where you’re trying to go for your first win. He asked why I didn’t wait. I felt that was my best opportunity to win the race, if I could get under him there.

“I knew A.J. was going to be quick either way. I had older tires, so I had to get going when I could. I’m sorry it ruined his day. That was never my intention.”

STAGE 1 WINNER: Tyler Reddick

STAGE 2 WINNER: Tyler Reddick

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Erik Jones finished seventh to claim his first top 10 since the Bristol Dirt race in March.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Hamlin’s best opportunity to finally post a win in the 2021 season went by the boards in the second OT attempt. Even so, he was still able to clinch a spot in the playoffs on points.

NOTABLE: Allmendinger’s win was the first for Kaulig Racing at the Cup level.

NEXT: Aug. 22 – Michigan International Speedway (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

Sammy Smith to run full Xfinity season for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2023

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Sammy Smith will run the full Xfinity schedule in the No. 18 car, Joe Gibbs Racing announced Monday.

The 18-year-old Smith, a Toyota development driver, won the ARCA Menards Series East title for a second consecutive year in 2022 and also made nine Xfinity starts with JGR.

Pilot Flying J, TMC Transportation and Allstate Peterbilt will be sponsors on Smith’s car throughout the 2023 season. Jeff Meendering will be Smith’s crew chief.

“This is an opportunity I have been working towards,” Smith said in a statement from the team. “I can’t wait to get behind the wheel full-time and am looking forward to a great season. I learned a lot in 2022 that will really help me to be competitive and run up front in the Xfinity Series. Thank you to Pilot Flying J, TMC Transportation, Allstate Peterbilt Group, and Toyota Racing Development for supporting me in my racing career. I am excited for next year and appreciate the opportunity.”

Said Steve DeSouza, JGR executive vice president of Xfinity Series and driver development, in a statement: “Sammy is a fantastic addition to our 2023 Xfinity lineup. He proved to have the passion and the talent to necessary to compete for wins in the races he ran for us in 2022,” .“We are excited to get him in the No. 18 full time and know he will be competitive from the jump.”

NASCAR Power Rankings: Racing through the numbers

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Some drivers carry one car number throughout their racing careers. The most famous racers in NASCAR’s 75-year history typically are associated with one number, although some have raced under several.

Victories, championships and driver personalities give life to something as generally mundane as a number. And the most popular produce even bigger numbers, as in sales of T-shirts, caps and other souvenirs.

Here’s a look at 10 of the most iconic NASCAR numbers:

NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

1. 43 — Since Richard Petty’s emergence as a superstar in the 1960s, the number 43 has been NASCAR’s most iconic. Although Lee Petty, Richard’s father, usually drove No. 42, he actually scored the first win by the 43, in 1959. The Petty blue No. 43 carried Richard to a string of championships. He scored 192 of his 200 race wins with the number. It rolls on today with Erik Jones, who took the 43 to the Southern 500 victory lane this season.

2. 3 — The fiercely facing forward No. 3 became ultra-famous while driven by seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt (although Earnhardt won his first title driving the No. 2). Earnhardt’s black Chevrolet carried the number to new heights, but Fireball Roberts, David Pearson, Junior Johnson, Buck Baker, Buddy Baker and Ricky Rudd, among others, also won in the car.

MORE: Where are they now? Buddy Parrott

3. 21 — The list of drivers who have raced Wood Brothers Racing’s famous No. 21, with the familiar gold foil numbers, reads like a history of NASCAR. David Pearson brought the most fame to the number, but Tim Flock, Curtis Turner, team owner Glen Wood, Cale Yarborough, A.J. Foyt, Donnie Allison, Neil Bonnett and Dale Jarrett also have driven the 21.

4. 11 — This number is responsible for more race wins — 228 — than any other. It also has scored eight championships — three each by Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough and two by Ned Jarrett. Other stars in the 11 over the years: Junior Johnson, Bobby Allison, A.J. Foyt, Terry Labonte, Geoffrey Bodine, Bill Elliott and Denny Hamlin. And some guy named Mario Andretti.

5. 48 — This number was largely ignored until the arrival of Jimmie Johnson, who carried it to seven championships, including five in a row.

6. 24 — The number 24 was a lonely number until 1994 when a kid named Jeff Gordon drove it to its first win, in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The brightly colored 24 became a regular visitor to victory lane from that point forward, carrying Gordon to four championships and becoming one of NASCAR’s most decorated numbers.

MORE: Will Kyle Busch follow footsteps of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning?

7. 18 — Although Dale Jarrett and Bobby Labonte won in the 18, Kyle Busch, draped in the bright colors of sponsor M&Ms, took it into new territory.

8. 22 — NASCAR’s first Cup champion (Red Byron) and its most recent (Joey Logano) rode with the 22. The number has produced 87 wins over the years, including victories by Fireball Roberts, Bobby Allison, Ward Burton, Kurt Busch, Byron and Logano.

9. 2 — Although the 2 carried Dale Earnhardt (1980) and Brad Keselowski (2012) to Cup championships, it is perhaps most identified with Rusty Wallace, whose menacing black No. 2 was powerful at Team Penske. Also successful in the 2: Bill Blair, Kurt Busch and Austin Cindric, this year’s Daytona 500 winner.

10. 9 — The 9 was basically nondescript until Bill Elliott roared out of the north Georgia mountains to turn it into a big winner in the mid-1980s. His son, Chase, continues the trend.

 

 

Truck Series: Rajah Caruth joins GMS Racing

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Rajah Caruth will drive the No. 24 truck full-time for GMS Racing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2023, the team announced Tuesday.

The 20-year-old Caruth ran a full season in the ARCA Menards Series last year, placing third in points. He also made seven Xfinity starts and four Truck starts last year. 

“I am extremely honored, and really excited to join GMS Racing and be in the fold of a professional race team with so much history,” Caruth said in a statement from the team. “I’ve been waiting for an opportunity like this throughout my whole career, and I’m going to do the best in my power to make the most of it.

“First and foremost, I can’t thank everybody at GMS enough for believing in me and believing that I have what it takes to drive one of their trucks. Same goes for everybody at Chevrolet for their support, we truly wouldn’t be able to make this happen without them. 

Caruth joins Grant Enfinger and Daniel Dye as GMS Racing’s full-time Craftsman Truck Series drivers. Chad Walter will be Caruth’s crew chief. Jeff Hensley will be Enfinger’s crew chief. Travis Sharpe will be Dye’s crew chief. 

The primary partner on Caruth’s truck will be the Wendell Scott Foundation. The foundation, named for the first Black driver to win a NASCAR Cup race, seeks to provide resources and services to underprivileged Black youth communities near Scott’s hometown of Danville, Virginia. Since the foundation’s formation in 2011, more than 25 students have been awarded more than $50,000 from the Wendell Scott Legacy Scholarship programs.

“We are excited for Rajah to compete full-time with GMS Racing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2023,” said Dayne Pierantoni, GM Racing Program Manager for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. “Through Chevrolet’s partnership with Rev Racing, we have been impressed with Rajah’s talent both on and off the track. He has proven his ability to compete at the NASCAR national level, and we look forward to seeing his continued success with a series championship winning team.”

The Truck season begins Feb. 17 at Daytona International Speedway. 

In other Truck Series news:

Dean Thompson will drive the No. 5 for TRICON Garage this coming season. The 21-year-old was a rookie in the series this past season. He had a season-best finish of 11th at Las Vegas.

“I am thrilled to start the next chapter of my career with TRICON Garage and Toyota Racing Development,” Thompson said in a statement from the team. “The team and manufacturer have quickly made a statement in the Truck Series as striving to be the best of the best. I’m ready to take on the challenge and live up to the expectations of being a driver for TRICON.”

McAnally Hilgemann Racing announced Tuesday that Christian Eckes and Jake Garcia will drive full-time in the Truck series for the team next season.

Eckes, who will drive the No. 19 truck, moves over from ThorSport Racing. Garcia will drive the No. 35 truck in pursuit of the series Rookie of the Year award.

NAPA AutoCare will continue as a team sponsor.

Garcia is 17 and is scheduled to make his first start March 3 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Because of NASCAR’s age restrictions, he will miss the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. The team’s Daytona driver has not been announced.

Sponsor adds more races in 2023 with Josh Berry

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Jarrett Companies will increase the number of races it will sponsor Josh Berry‘s No. 8 JR Motorsports ride in 2023, the Xfinity Series team announced Monday.

Jarrett Companies will sponsor Berry in six races after serving as the primary sponsor in three races in 2022. Those six races will be Phoenix (March 11), Richmond (April 1), Dover (April 29), Atlanta (July 8), Indianapolis (Aug. 12) and Texas (Sept. 23).

The deal gives Berry at least 26 races with sponsorship for next season. Bass Pro Shops will serve as the primary sponsor of Berry’s car in 11 races in 2023. Tire Pros is back with JRM and will sponsor Berry in nine races in the upcoming season.

Berry, who reached the Xfinity title race and finished fourth in the points, will have a new crew chief in 2023. Taylor Moyer will take over that role with Mike Bumgarner serving as JRM’s director of competition.

The 2023 Xfinity season begins Feb. 18 at Daytona International Speedway.