Bubba Wallace’s second career Cup win was only ‘a matter of time’

0 Comments

KANSAS CITY, Kans. — Winning is always special, but drivers have said, particularly those with one Cup win, that winning a second series race was important because it showed that they were not just a one-hit wonder.

Bubba Wallace passed beyond that with his second career Cup victory Sunday at Kansas Speedway.

MORE: Bubba Wallace to be on MotorMouths Monday (6-7 p.m. ET on Peacock)

“I think winning at this level is the hardest thing in life for us race car drivers,” said Wallace, who has won a Cup race two consecutive seasons.

“To be able to say we’re winners (Sunday) here at Kansas through the year that we’ve had and what we’ve been able to do the last couple of months is incredible. … To come out winners, I knew it was only a matter of time. Had a lot of people telling me that. So it’s finally cool to see it come to fruition. Two times is better than one time.”

The victory is not surprising. Wallace had arguably the best car at Kansas in May but two penalties by his pit crew caused him to restart twice at the back of the field. He went on to finish 10th. 23XI Racing teammate Kurt Busch won that race. 

At Michigan last month, Wallace was on the front row for the final restart but could not keep Kevin Harvick from getting by. Wallace then was mired in a battle to keep second and never got the chance to challenge Harvick, placing second. 

That Wallace is becoming a factor at more than superspeedways — his first career Cup win was last year at Talladega and he has three runner-up finishes at Daytona — shows the growth he and his team are making.

“We’re talked about when we go to the speedways and kind of not so much the rest of the tracks, so I want to start changing that,” Wallace said after his sixth top-10 finish in the last nine races. “We’ve been able to show up these last two months or so, all different types of racetracks, and be talked about. That’s cool. It’s a step in the right direction.

“We just can’t get complacent. We have to keep going, keep pushing for more. This is great, but we have to continue to go back out and battle. I appreciate the opportunity that I’m in right now with the team that I have and keep going.”

————————————————————————————————————————

A couple of key moments in Sunday’s race went against Denny Hamlin and kept him from having a chance to win. 

On what would be the final restart — at the beginning of stage 3 — Hamlin lined up fourth on Lap 172 but quickly fell back to eighth by Lap 174. In a race where track position was critical, this put him in a challenging spot.

Hamlin didn’t get to fifth until Lap 197 in the 267-lap race. He was back up to fourth when he came to pit road on Lap 214 for his final stop. 

Hamlin was first playoff car to pit. Crew chief Chris Gabehart said he came early because he was trying to leapfrog Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Christopher Bell.

Hamlin had an 11.5-second pit stop, according to Racing Insights. Leader Bubba Wallace came on the next lap and had a 10.4-second pit stop.

That was only part of what kept Hamlin from having a chance to challenge Wallace for the win at the end.

Gabehart said Wallace’s entry and exit off pit road, compared to Hamlin’s, was a key factor. 

“It was roughly a two second delta,” Gabehart told NBC Sports of the difference between Wallace and Hamlin. “Some of that was the pit stop just wasn’t great. And to Bubba’s credit, he’s really good at (pit entry and pit exit). His green flag entries and green flag exits have been good for a long time. And it won him a race.”

Hamlin acknowledged how good Wallace is in that area.

Bubba, historically on the metrics, has been really good on green flag entries,” Hamlin said. “So I kind of knew that it was going to be tough for me to gain. I kind of focused just on not making a mistake coming to pit road. … He just smashed us pretty bad, I think by about a second. We lost by exactly one second.

Said Wallace: “There’s a lot of metrics in our JGR metric sheet. There’s about 1,000 pages. I take pride in trying to be at the top of those. Some weeks you are. Most weeks I’m not, but pit-in, pit-out, green flag stuff has always been one of my strong suits.

Honestly, they said, ‘Pit now,’ and I’m like, OK, and just was able to capitalize and that was it. Didn’t do anything fancy, but just one of those high traits that we carry. It worked out for us.”

————————————————————————————————————————

Martin Truex Jr.’s fifth-place finish was not a result he celebrated. 

Truex, who still seeks his first win of the season and is not in the playoffs for the first time since 2014, gave up the lead on Lap 112 when he had to return to pit road so his crew could tighten the left rear tire. 

Truex didn’t get back into the top five until seven laps left. 

“Too many mistakes,” Truex said. 

He said he felt he had the best car in the race.

What could he do better than others?

“Pass cars,” he said. “The longer the race goes, the harder it is to do it and the longer it takes you to get through the field. Just too many mistakes.”

Asked if this was just the way the season has gone, Truex said: “Yep. Ready for the offseason.”

————————————————————————————————————————

Sunday marked the first time in 50 years that the same car number won two races at a track in the same season with different drivers, according to Racing Insights. Both Kurt Busch and Bubba Wallace drove the No. 45 car to a win this year at Kansas.

The No. 21 car of Wood Brothers Racing won the 1972 Daytona 500 with A.J. Foyt and won the Firecracker 400 at Daytona that July with David Pearson. 

The last time the same car number won two races with multiple drivers in the same season was 2002.

Sterling Marlin won in the No. 40 car at Las Vegas and Dover before he suffered a fractured vertebra and missed the final seven races of the season. Jamie McMurray won the fall Charlotte race in his second start in the No. 40 car in place of Marlin that season.

NASCAR will not race at Auto Club Speedway in 2024

0 Comments

LOS ANGELES — Auto Club Speedway will not host a NASCAR race next year because of plans to convert the 2-mile speedway into a short track.

It will mark only the second time the Cup Series has not raced at the Southern California track since first competing there in 1997. Cup did not race at the track in 2021 because of the pandemic.

Dave Allen, Auto Club Speedway president, also said Saturday that “it’s possible” that the track might not host a NASCAR race in 2025 because of how long it could take to make the conversion. 

MORE: Details for Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum 

NASCAR came to the Fontana, California, track during the sport’s expansion in the late 1990s that also saw Cup debut at Texas (1997), Las Vegas (1998) and Homestead (1999).

Auto Club Speedway begins the West Coast swing this season, hosting the Cup Series on Feb. 26, a week after the Daytona 500. The series then goes to Las Vegas and Phoenix the following two weeks.

Auto Club Speedway has been among a favorite of drivers because of its aging pavement that put more of the car’s control in the hands of competitors. 

Allen said that officials continue to work on the track’s design. It is expected to be a half-mile track. With NASCAR already having a half-mile high-banked track (Bristol) and half-mile low-banked track (Martinsville), Allen said that a goal is to make Auto Club Speedway stand out.

“It has to make a statement, and making sure that we have a racetrack that is unique to itself here and different than any of the tracks they go to is very important,” Allen said. “Having said that, it’s equally important … to make sure that the fan experience part is unique.”

Kyle Larson, who won last year’s Cup race at Auto Club Speedway, said that he talked to Allen on Saturday was told the track project likely will take about 18 months. 

“I don’t know exactly the extent of what they’re doing with the track, how big it’s going to be, the shape or banking and all that, and I love the 2-mile track, but I think the more short tracks we can have, the better off our sport is going to be,” Larson said.

With Auto Club Speedway off the schedule in 2024, it would mean the only time Cup raced in the Los Angeles area would be at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. NASCAR has a three-year contract with the Coliseum to race there and holds the option to return.

Sunday’s Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum marks the second year of that agreement. Last year’s inaugural event at the Coliseum drew about 50,000 fans. NASCAR has not publicly stated if it will return to the Coliseum next year.

Sunday Clash at the Coliseum: Start time, TV info, race format

0 Comments

LOS ANGELES – NASCAR is back and back at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Nearly three months after Joey Logano won the Cup title at Phoenix, Cup drivers return to action this weekend to run the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum exhibition race on Sunday night.

This marks the second consecutive year the series has raced inside the Coliseum, which has hosted the Super Bowl, World Series and Olympics.

Details for Sunday’s Busch Light Clash at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum 

(All times Eastern)

HEAT RACES: There will be four 25-lap heat races. Caution laps do not count. The top five from each race advance to the Busch Light Clash. The first heat race is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.

LAST CHANCE QUALIFIERS: There will be two 50-lap qualifiers for drivers who did not advance to the Clash through their heat races. Caution laps do not count. The top three finishers in each of the qualifiers advance to the Clash. The 27-car Clash lineup will be finalized by adding one provisional spot for the driver highest in points last season not yet in the Clash field. The first of these two last chance qualifying races is scheduled to begin at 6:10 p.m.

CLASH STARTING LINEUP: To be set by heat races and the Last Chance Qualifiers. Winner of heat 1 will start on the pole for the Clash. Winner of heat 2 will start second. Winner of heat 3 will start third. Winner of heat 4 will start 4th. Runner-up in heat 1 will start fifth and so on.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 11 a.m. … Driver intros are at 7:50 p.m. … Invocation by Judah Smith, lead pastor of Churchome, at 8:07 p.m. … The USC Trojan Marching Band will perform the national anthem at 8:08 p.m. … Actor Rob Lowe will give the command to fire engines at 8:15 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled to be waved by USC quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams at 8:20 p.m.

DISTANCE: The Clash is 150 laps (37.5 miles) on the 1/4-mile short track.

STAGES: There will be a stage break at Lap 75 (halfway in the Clash). Wiz Khalifa will perform during the break.

TV/RADIO: Fox will broadcast the event, beginning at 4 p.m. . … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. and also will stream at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Partly cloudy with a high of 63 degrees and a 1% chance of rain for the start of the heat races. Partly cloudy with a high of 61 degrees and a 1% chance of rain for the Clash..

LAST TIME: Joey Logano held off Kyle Busch to win the inaugural Clash at the Coliseum. Austin Dillon placed third. .

Catch up on NBC Sports coverage

New NASCAR season features several changes

Clash at the Coliseum provides a reset for RFK Racing 

Harrison Burton looks for progress in second year in Cup

Dr. Diandra: Muffling racecars won’t change fan experience

Drivers to watch at Clash in Coliseum

NASCAR announces rule changes for 2023

NASCAR outlaws Ross Chastain Martinsville move

NASCAR eliminates stage breaks for Cup road course events 

Looking back on 10 historic moments in the Clash

 

NASCAR Saturday schedule at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

0 Comments

NASCAR drivers are scheduled to hit the track today in competitive mode for the first time in 2023.

Practice is scheduled from 6-8 p.m. on the oval inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Single-car qualifying for Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum is scheduled to begin at 8:35 p.m. (ET). The 36 drivers will be divided into three 12-driver groups for practice.

Cup practice groups

Cup qualfying order

Saturday’s qualifying will set the starting lineups for Sunday’s four 25-lap heat races. The top five finishers in each heat race will advance to the main event. Two 50-lap “last chance” races will follow, and the top three finishers in each of those events will join the feature field.

The 150-lap main event is scheduled at 8 p.m. (ET) Sunday.

For the second consecutive year, the Clash is being held on a purpose-built track inside the LA Coliseum, one of sport’s iconic venues. Joey Logano won last year’s race and last year’s series championship and will be among the favorites Sunday.

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

Weather

Saturday: Intervals of clouds and sun. High 71.

Saturday, Feb. 4

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 2 – 11:30 p.m. — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 6 – 8 p.m. — Cup practice (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 8:35 – 9:30 p.m. — Cup qualifying (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

New NASCAR Cup season features several changes

0 Comments

While NASCAR looks back in celebrating its 75th season, there’s plenty new for the sport heading into the 2023 campaign.

Driver moves and schedule changes and are among some of the big changes this year. Here’s a look at some of the changes this season in Cup:

Drivers

— Two-time Cup champion Kyle Busch has a different look, as he moves from Joe Gibbs Racing to Richard Childress Racing, taking the ride formerly occupied by Tyler Reddick. 

— Tyler Reddick goes from Richard Childress Racing to 23XI Racing, taking the ride formerly occupied by Kurt Busch, who was injured in a crash last summer and has not returned to competition.

Ryan Preece goes from being a test driver and backup at Stewart-Haas Racing to taking over the No. 41 car formerly run by Cole Custer, who moves to the Xfinity Series. 

— Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson returns to Cup after running the past two seasons in the IndyCar Series. He’s now a part owner of Legacy Motor Club and will run select races for the Cup team. Johnson will seek to make the Daytona 500, driving the No. 84 car.

Ty Gibbs goes from Xfinity Series champion to Cup rookie for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Noah Gragson goes from Xfinity Series title contender to Cup rookie for Legacy Motor Club (and teammate to Jimmie Johnson).

Crew chiefs

— Keith Rodden, who last was a full-time Cup crew chief in 2017 with Kasey Kahne, is back in that role for Austin Dillon at Richard Childress Racing, as Dillon seeks to make back-to-back playoff appearances. Rodden comes to RCR after working with the Motorsports Competition NASCAR strategy group at General Motors.

— Chad Johnston, who has been a crew chief for Tony Stewart, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson and Matt Kenseth, will serve as crew chief for Ryan Preece at Stewart-Haas Racing.

— Blake Harris goes from being Michael McDowell’s crew chief at Front Row Motorsports to joining Hendrick Motorsports to be Alex Bowman’s crew chief. 

— Mike Kelley, who served as Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s crew chief when Stenhouse won Xfinity titles in 2011 and ’12, returns to the crew chief role with Stenhouse this season at JTG Daugherty Racing. 

Races

— What’s old is new. The All-Star Race moves to North Wilkesboro Speedway in May, marking the first Cup event at that historic track since 1996.

— July 2 marks debut of the street course race in Chicago, marking NASCAR’s first street race for its premier series.

— The spring Atlanta race and playoff Texas race have both been reduced from 500 miles to 400 miles.

Rules

Ross Chastain’s video-game move on the last lap at Martinsville will no longer be allowed, NASCAR announced this week. 

— Stage breaks are gone at the road course events for Cup races. Stage points will be awarded but there will be no caution for the end of the stage.  

— If a wheel comes off a car while on track, it is only a two-race suspension (last year it was four races) for two crew members. The crew chief is no longer suspended for the violation. 

— Cup cars have a new rear section that is intended to absorb more energy in a crash to prevent driver injuries after Kurt Busch and Alex Bowman each missed races last year because of concussion-related symptoms.

— Elton Sawyer is the new vice president of competition for NASCAR. Think of the former driver as the new sheriff in town for the sport.

Achievements 

— With a win this season, Kyle Busch will have at least one Cup victory in 19 consecutive seasons and become the all-time series leader in that category, breaking a tie with Richard Petty.

Denny Hamlin needs two wins to reach 50 career Cup victories. That would tie him with Hall of Famers Ned Jarrett and Junior Johnson for 13th on the all-time list. 

Kevin Harvick, running his final Cup season, is 10 starts away from 800 career series starts. That would make him only the 10th driver in Cup history to reach that mark.