Long: Unforgettable night for Jeremy Clements stretches into morning

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — What Jeremy Clements couldn’t put into words, Noah Gragson could Saturday morning at Daytona International Speedway.

Gragson had just been cleared from the infield care center after a vicious crash. He had been contending for the lead in the second of three overtime restarts before the incident ended his race.

But Gragson’s disappointment faded when he saw a monitor and the final lap of the rain-delayed race.

“Holy s—-!” Gragson said. “Yeah! Let’s go! Jeremy just won it!”

Gragson admits “I kind of made a little scene in (the infield care center), but everybody was pumped up, all the doctors.”

As Clements circled the track after the caution waved and ended the race at 1:28 a.m. ET, he radioed his crew: “What the hell happened? We won? … What the hell?”

What happened was remarkable — especially since his win occurred five years to the day that he won at Road America for his only other Xfinity Series victory. 

But to win at Daytona? This speedway, so special for so many in the sport, has extra meaning for Clements. His family was with Rex White when White won the 1960 NASCAR title. Jeremy’s grandfather was the crew chief for A.J. Foyt when Foyt won the July 4 race at Daytona in 1964. 

Clements spent his childhood “racing and tearing up my mom and dad’s yard in a yard kart and just dreaming about having an opportunity to race.”

After winning at Daytona, Clements struggled to describe the feeling.

“Frickin’ phenomenal,” he said at about 2:30 a.m. ET. “Maybe I can give you some better words another day after I think about it and really realize it. It’s just incredible and thrilled beyond belief.”

Clements’ words work well in this shocking result. In 24 previous Xfinity races at Daytona, he had finished in the top 10 twice. He had never finished better than eighth at Daytona until this race.

Clements’ journey to victory lane at Daytona mirrors his career. The 37-year-old from Spartanburg, South Carolina, almost had his racing career end in 2004 when a driveshaft broke on his dirt late model and came through the car and nearly ripped his hand off. He cried and screamed in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. There was talk of possibly having to amputate the hand. Instead, it was saved. It took 10 surgeries.

After winning at Daytona, Clements thanked God for saving his hand.

“The doctors literally told me, ‘you’ll never race again,’ ” Clements said. “I was like you all are crazy, just do your job and make it the best you can and we’ll figure it out from there.”

And he made it to NASCAR’s No. 2 series. Clements did it with a family team in an era where family teams struggle to compete against the powerhouses of JR Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing and Kaulig Racing. 

But Clements and his team have learned to survive. He does whatever is needed, whether it’s working on the car with the team’s four full-time employees, booking hotel rooms or anything else.

His competitors recognize the challenges Clements faces and understood what the win meant.

“I’m really happy for Jeremy and his dad and the whole Clements family,” AJ Allmendinger said after finishing third. “This sport is based on a lot of big teams, but it’s the little teams like that that make the sport go around as well. … I’d love to be in victory lane right now, but to see all the family members and everybody associated with that team is pretty awesome.”

Clements’ win overshadowed the career-high finish of runner-up Timmy Hill. But Hill also celebrated Clements’ win and went to Victory Lane to congratulate him.

“It’s a high,” Hill said of his finish. “It’s really thrilling. It’s really cool to see Jeremy win. What you see on television is how he really is. He’s an excellent guy.”

And now Clements is a Daytona winner.

NASCAR suspends Chase Elliott one race for incident with Denny Hamlin


NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one Cup race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600, the sanctioning body announced Tuesday.

“We take this very seriously,” Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition, said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The incident that happened off Turn 4, again after looking at all the available resources — in-car camera, data, SMT, which basically gives us (a car’s) steering, throttle, gives us braking — it was an intentional act by Chase in our opinion.”

Hendrick Motorsports stated that it would not appeal the penalty. Corey LaJoie will drive the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports this weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway. Carson Hocevar will drive LaJoie’s car this weekend.

Hendrick Motorsports also stated that it would submit a waiver request for Elliott to remain eligible for the playoffs. Sawyer said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “I don’t see any reason at this point in time why wouldn’t (grant the waiver) when that request comes across our desk.”

This weekend will mark the seventh race in the first 15 that Elliott will have missed. He missed six races after breaking his leg in a snowboarding accident in early March. Elliott, who is winless this season, is 29th in points.

Elliott and Hamlin got together shortly before the halfway mark in Monday’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

As they ran together, Hamlin forced Elliott toward the wall. Elliott’s car slapped the wall. Elliott then made contact with the right rear of Hamlin’s car, sending Hamlin into the wall.

“I got right-rear hooked in the middle of the straightway,” Hamlin said after the incident. “Yes, it was a tantrum. He shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”

Said Sawyer on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio: “In the heat of the battle, things happen, but they have to learn to react in a different way. … Our drivers need to understand that you have to handle that in a completely different way than hooking someone in the right rear and putting them in harm’s way, not only with just a major head-on collision like Denny had, but also other competitors.”

Sawyer also said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “nothing gave us the indication that on that particular contact with the fourth-turn wall … that anything was broke” on Elliott’s car and could have caused him to come down and hit Hamlin’s car in the right rear.

NASCAR also announced that Scott Brzozowski and Adam Lewis, crew members on Michael McDowell‘s team, had each been suspended two races after McDowell’s car lost a tire in Monday’s race.

Winners and losers at Charlotte Motor Speedway


A look at winners and losers from Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway:


Ryan Blaney — Blaney stopped his winless streak at 59 races and gave team owner Roger Penske his second major race victory in two days. Blaney had the best car but had to fight through restarts late in the race to win.

William Byron — Byron, the winningest driver this season, barely missed getting victory No. 4. He finished second and scored his fifth straight top 10.

Martin Truex Jr. — Truex logged his third top five of the season.

23XI RacingBubba Wallace was fourth and Tyler Reddick fifth, giving 23XI Racing a pair of top-five finishes for the first time in a points race.


Jimmie Johnson — The seven-time champion admitted having problems adjusting to the Next Gen car on a 1.5-mile track. He crashed early and finished last.

Legacy Motor Club — It was a bad night for Jimmie Johnson and his team’s drivers. Johnson finished last in the 37-car field. Noah Gragson was 36th. Erik Jones placed 32nd.

Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin — Two drivers who had strong cars didn’t make it to the finish after crashing near the halfway point. Hamlin said Elliott “shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”

NASCAR Xfinity Series results: Justin Allgaier wins at Charlotte


CONCORD, N.C. — Justin Allgaier finally broke through for his first win of the NASCAR Xfinity Series season Monday night.

Allgaier stretched his last fuel load over the final laps to finish in front of John Hunter Nemechek. Cole Custer was third, Austin Hill fourth and Ty Gibbs fifth. Gibbs ran both races Monday, completing 900 miles.

The win also was the first of the season for JR Motorsports.

Charlotte Xfinity results

Xfinity points after Charlotte

Justin Allgaier wins NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway


CONCORD, N.C. — Justin Allgaier won a fuel-mileage gamble to win Monday night’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Allgaier stretched his fuel to outlast second-place John Hunter Nemechek. Following in the top five were Cole Custer, Austin Hill and Ty Gibbs.

The victory was Allgaier’s first of the year and the first of the season for JR Motorsports. He has 20 career wins.

MORE: Charlotte Xfinity results

After a long day at CMS, the race ended at 11:25 p.m. The race started Monday morning but was stopped twice because of weather before it was halted with 48 of 200 laps completed so that the Coca-Cola 600 Cup Series race could be run.

When the race was stopped, Gibbs, Nemechek and Allgaier were in the top three positions.

Gibbs won the first two stages.

Stage 1 winner: Ty Gibbs

Stage 2 winner: Ty Gibbs

Who had a good race: Justin Allgaier has had good cars in previous races but finally cashed in with a win Monday. He led 83 laps. … John Hunter Nemechek, in second, scored his fifth top-two run of the season. … Cole Custer scored his sixth straight top-10 finish. … Ty Gibbs lasted 900 miles for the day and led 52 laps in the Xfinity race.

Who had a bad race: Sam Mayer was running 10th when he spun off Turn 2. He finished 35th. … Sheldon Creed finished three laps down in 28th.

Next: The series moves on to Portland International Raceway in Oregon for a 4:30 p.m. ET race June 3.